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Immunology. 1992 Jul;76(3):465-71.

Phorbol ester synergizes with Ca2+ ionophore in activation of protein kinase C (PKC)alpha and PKC beta isoenzymes in human T cells and in induction of related cellular functions.

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Division of Cell Biology, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, California 92037.


Studies described herein were designed to examine the effects of 12-O-tetradecanoyl phorbol-13-acetate (TPA), and a Ca2+ ionophore (ionomycin), singly or in combination, on the activation and expression of the Ca(2+)-dependent protein kinase C (PKC) isoenzymes (alpha, beta and gamma) at the protein and messenger RNA (mRNA) levels in T cells. These two agents induce the activation and proliferation of T lymphocytes by mimicking the action of inositol phospholipid-derived second messengers normally generated by triggering of the antigen-specific T-cell receptor (TcR)/CD3 complex. TPA-induced T-cell proliferation, expression of interleukin-2 receptor-alpha subunit (IL-2R alpha) and transferrin receptor, CD3 down-regulation and, lastly, the cytosol-to-membrane PKC translocation (determined by an enzymatic assay or by immunoblotting with a cross-reactive anti-PKC peptide antibody) were all facilitated by ionomycin. Immunoblots with isoenzyme-specific anti-PKC monoclonal antibodies demonstrated expression of immunoreactive PKC alpha, PKC beta and PKC gamma proteins that were translocated to the membrane upon TPA plus ionomycin stimulation. Resting T cells expressed abundant levels of mRNA for PKC alpha and PKC beta, but very low levels (relative to brain) of PKC gamma. TPA increased by two- to threefold the expression of PKC beta, but not of PKC alpha or PKC gamma, mRNA within 12 hr of stimulation. Ionomycin synergized with TPA in increasing the expression of PKC alpha and PKC beta mRNA. The two agents also synergized in inducing expression of additional activation/growth-associated genes, namely the c-myc protooncogene, ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) and IL-2R alpha. Ionomycin alone was inactive (or marginally active) in all of these assays. The translocation of distinct Ca(2+)-dependent PKC isoenzymes to the membrane and the up-regulation of PKC alpha and beta mRNA suggest that at least these two isoenzymes are involved in discrete steps of the pathway leading to T-cell activation and proliferation. Moreover, the combined effects of TPA and ionomycin on T-cell function and cell-surface antigen expression appear to be due, at least in part, to their synergistic activation of distinct PKC isoenzyme(s).

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