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Nat Immunol. 2009 Mar;10(3):306-13. doi: 10.1038/ni.1696. Epub 2009 Jan 25.

The gene encoding early growth response 2, a target of the transcription factor NFAT, is required for the development and maturation of natural killer T cells.

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Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


The influence of signals transmitted by the phosphatase calcineurin and the transcription factor NFAT on the development and function of natural killer T (NKT) cells is unclear. In this report, we demonstrate that the transcription factor early growth response 2 (Egr2), a target gene of NFAT, was specifically required for the ontogeny of NKT cells but not that of conventional CD4(+) or CD8(+) T cells. NKT cells developed normally in the absence of Egr1 or Egr3, which suggests that Egr2 is a specific regulator of NKT cell differentiation. We found that Egr2 was important in the selection, survival and maturation of NKT cells. Our findings emphasize the importance of the calcineurin-NFAT-Egr2 pathway in the development of the NKT lymphocyte lineage.

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