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Int Immunol. 2008 Nov;20(11):1427-37. doi: 10.1093/intimm/dxn100. Epub 2008 Sep 26.

Impaired TCR signaling through dysfunction of lipid rafts in sphingomyelin synthase 1 (SMS1)-knockdown T cells.

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Department of Hematology and Immunology, Kanazawa Medical University, 1-1 Daigaku, Uchinada, Ishikawa 920-0293, Japan.


During T cell activation, TCRs cluster at the center of the T cell-antigen-presenting cell interface forming the central supramolecular activation cluster. Although it has been suggested that sphingolipid- and cholesterol-rich microdomains, termed lipid rafts, form platforms for the regulation and transduction of TCR signals, an actual role for membrane sphingomyelin (SM), a key component of lipid rafts, has not been reported. After cloning a gene responsible for SM synthesis, sphingomyelin synthase (SMS) 1, we established a SM-knockdown cell line (Jurkat-SMS1/kd) by transfection of SMS1-short-interfering RNA into Jurkat T cells, which is deficient in membrane expression of SM. Upon CD3 stimulation, expression of CD69 (the earliest leukocyte activation antigen), activation-induced cell adhesion and proliferation as well as TCR clustering was severely impaired in Jurkat-SMS1/kd cells. CD3-induced tyrosine phosphorylation and association of linker for activation of T cell with ZAP-70 and Grb2 and phosphorylation of protein kinase C (PKC) were also severely impaired in Jurkat-SMS1/kd cells. Finally, translocation of TCR, ZAP-70 and PKC into lipid rafts was markedly decreased in Jurkat-SMS1/kd cells. These findings indicate that membrane SM is crucial for TCR signal transduction, leading to full T cell activation through lipid raft function.

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