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J Immunol. 2005 Nov 1;175(9):5931-9.

IFN-gamma production by CD8+ T cells depends on NFAT1 transcription factor and regulates Th differentiation.

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Division of Cellular Biology, Brazilian National Cancer Institute, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


CD8+ T lymphocytes are excellent sources of IFN-gamma; however, the molecular mechanisms that dictate IFN-gamma expression upon TCR stimulation in these cells are not completely understood. In this study, we evaluated the involvement of NFAT1 in the regulation of IFN-gamma gene expression in murine CD8+ T cells and its relevance during Th differentiation. We show that CD8+, but not CD4+, T cells, represent the very first source of IFN-gamma upon primary T cell activation, and also that the IFN-gamma produced by naive CD8+ T cells may enhance CD4+ Th1 differentiation in vitro. TCR stimulation rapidly induced IFN-gamma expression in CD8+ T lymphocytes in a cyclosporin A-sensitive manner. Evaluation of CD8+ T cells showed that calcium influx alone was sufficient to activate NFAT1 protein, transactivate IFN-gamma gene promoter, and induce IFN-gamma production. In fact, NFAT1-deficient mice demonstrated highly impaired IFN-gamma production by naive CD8+ T lymphocytes, which were totally rescued after retroviral transduction with NFAT1-encoding vectors. Moreover, NFAT1-dependent IFN-gamma production by the CD8+ T cell compartment was crucial to control a Th2-related response in vivo, such as allergic inflammation. Consistently, CD8alpha- as well as IFN-gamma-deficient mice did not mount a Th1 immune response and also developed in vivo allergic inflammation. Our results clearly indicate that IFN-gamma production by CD8+ T cells is dependent of NFAT1 transcription factor and may be an essential regulator of Th immune responses in vivo.

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