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J Exp Med. 2000 Oct 2;192(7):987-1000.

Tec family kinases modulate thresholds for thymocyte development and selection.

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National Human Genome Research Institute, Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center, National Institutes of Health, Frederick, Maryland 21702, USA.


Tec family kinases are implicated in T cell receptor (TCR) signaling, and combined mutation of inducible T cell kinase (Itk) and resting lymphocyte kinase (Rlk)/Txk in mice dramatically impairs mature T cell function. Nonetheless, mutation of these kinases still permits T cell development. While itk(-)(/)- mice exhibit mild reductions in T cells with decreased CD4/CD8 cell ratios, rlk(-)(/)-itk(-)(/)- mice have improved total T cell numbers yet maintain decreased CD4/CD8 ratios. Using TCR transgenics and an in vitro thymocyte deletion model, we demonstrate that mutation of Tec kinases causes graded defects in thymocyte selection, leading to a switch from negative to positive selection in rlk(-)(/)-itk(-)(/)- animals. The reduction in both positive and negative selection and decreased CD4/CD8 ratios correlates with decreased biochemical parameters of TCR signaling, specifically defects in capacitive Ca(2+) influx and activation of the mitogen-activated kinases extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1 and 2. Thus, Tec kinases influence cell fate determination by modulating TCR signaling, leading to altered thresholds for thymocyte selection. These results provide support for a quantitative model for thymic development and provide evidence that defects in negative selection can substantially alter thymic cellularity.

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