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Infect Immun. 2008 Mar;76(3):1207-13. Epub 2007 Dec 26.

The proteasome immunosubunit multicatalytic endopeptidase complex-like 1 is a T-cell-intrinsic factor influencing homeostatic expansion.

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Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Veterinary School, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Homeostatic regulatory mechanisms maintain the constant ratios between different lymphocyte subsets in the secondary lymphoid organs. How this dynamic equilibrium is achieved, in particular following the clonal expansion and subsequent contraction of different cells after infection, remains poorly understood. Expression of the proteasome immunosubunits has been shown to influence not only major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC-I) antigen processing and thereby T-cell responses, but also the CD4/CD8 T-cell ratios in lymphoid organs. We examined the relationships between these different immunosubunit-mediated effects in mice of various proteasome subunit compositions during infection with Listeria monocytogenes. Mice that lacked the immunosubunit multicatalytic endopeptidase complex-like 1 (MECL-1) maintained enhanced CD4/CD8 T-cell ratios during infection, while MHC-I surface levels resembled those in wild-type (wt) mice. LMP7 gene-deficient mice, on the other hand, showed reduced MHC-I expression, while their splenic CD4/CD8 ratios were similar to those in wt mice. Remarkably, analysis of bone marrow-chimeric immunosubunit gene-deficient mice, reconstituted with a mixture of wt and LMP7- plus MECL-1-deficient bone marrow, revealed that the LMP7- plus MECL-1-deficient T-cell population maintained a higher CD4/CD8 T-cell ratio than the wt T-cell population before, during, and after infection and T-cell memory formation. Since in these mice the immunosubunit-positive and immunosubunit-negative T-cell populations were selected in the same thymus and expanded in the same lymphoid environments, our findings indicate that MECL-1 influences the homeostatic equilibrium between T-cell subsets, not through indirect extracellular signals, such as MHC-I expression or the cytokine milieu, but through direct effects on T-cell-intrinsic processes.

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