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Immunology. 2005 Sep;116(1):82-8.

Expression of human pim family genes is selectively up-regulated by cytokines promoting T helper type 1, but not T helper type 2, cell differentiation.

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Turku Centre for Biotechnology, University of Turku/Abo Akademi University, Turku, Finland.


Cytokines are the most important inducers of T helper (Th) cell differentiation. Interleukin-12 (IL-12) and interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) are responsible for human Th1-cell differentiation, while IL-4 is the critical cytokine promoting Th2-cell development. These two subsets of cells co-ordinate immunological responses to pathogens as well as autoimmune or allergic reactions. The pim family of proto-oncogenes encodes serine/threonine-specific kinases involved in cytokine-mediated signalling pathways in haematopoietic cells. Here we demonstrate that expression of pim-1 and pim-2 mRNAs is selectively up- or down-regulated in human cord-blood-derived CD4+ cells freshly induced to polarize towards Th1 or Th2 cells, respectively, whereas their expression is inhibited in both cell types by the immunosuppressive transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta). Moreover, the Th1-specific cytokines IL-12 and IFN-alpha, but not the Th2-specific cytokine IL-4, transiently up-regulate pim-1 and pim-2 mRNA expression in human peripheral blood T cells and natural killer cells. In addition, the Pim-1 protein levels are strongly up-regulated by Th1-specific cytokines in all of these cell types. Taken together, our results suggest that pim genes and their protein products are involved in the early differentiation process of T helper cells.

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