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J Biol Chem. 2003 Sep 19;278(38):35940-9. Epub 2003 Jul 10.

Ectopic B-Raf expression enhances extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling in T cells and prevents antigen-presenting cell-induced anergy.

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Vollum Institute, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, Oregon 97239, USA.


T cells that receive stimulation through the T cell receptor (TCR) in the absence of costimulation become anergic and are refractory to subsequent costimulation. This unresponsiveness is associated with the constitutive activation of the small G protein, Rap1, and the lack of Ras-dependent activation of ERK. Recent studies suggest that Rap1 can activate the MAP kinase kinase kinase B-Raf that is either endogenously or ectopically expressed. Peripheral T cells generally do not express B-Raf; therefore, to test the hypothesis that ectopic expression of B-Raf could permit Rap1 to activate ERK signaling, we generated transgenic mice expressing B-Raf within peripheral T cells. This converted Rap1 into an activator of ERK, to enhance ERK activation and proliferation following TCR engagement in the absence of costimulation. When T cells were incubated with engineered APCs presenting antigen on I-Ek and expressing low levels of B7, they became anergic, displayed constitutive activation of Rap1, and were deficient in Ras and ERK activation. However, when incubated with the same APCs, T cells expressing the B-Raf transgene proliferated upon restimulation and displayed elevated ERK activation. Thus B-Raf expression and enhanced ERK activation is sufficient to prevent anergy in a model of APC-induced T cell anergy. However, studies using anti-TCR antibody-induced anergy showed that the ability of ERKs to reverse T cell anergy is dependent on the anergic model utilized.

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