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J Immunol. 2002 Aug 1;169(3):1151-8.

Essential role of NF-kappa B-inducing kinase in T cell activation through the TCR/CD3 pathway.

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Division of Molecular Immunology, Institute for Enzyme Research, University of Tokushima, Tokushima, Japan.


NF-kappa B-inducing kinase (NIK) is involved in lymphoid organogenesis in mice through lymphotoxin-beta receptor signaling. To clarify the roles of NIK in T cell activation through TCR/CD3 and costimulation pathways, we have studied the function of T cells from aly mice, a strain with mutant NIK. NIK mutant T cells showed impaired proliferation and IL-2 production in response to anti-CD3 stimulation, and these effects were caused by impaired NF-kappa B activity in both mature and immature T cells; the impaired NF-kappa B activity in mature T cells was also associated with the failure of maintenance of activated NF-kappa B. In contrast, responses to costimulatory signals were largely retained in aly mice, suggesting that NIK is not uniquely coupled to the costimulatory pathways. When NIK mutant T cells were stimulated in the presence of a protein kinase C (PKC) inhibitor, proliferative responses were abrogated more severely than in control mice, suggesting that both NIK and PKC control T cell activation in a cooperative manner. We also demonstrated that NIK and PKC are involved in distinct NF-kappa B activation pathways downstream of TCR/CD3. These results suggest critical roles for NIK in setting the threshold for T cell activation, and partly account for the immunodeficiency in aly mice.

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