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Blood. 2009 Jul 16;114(3):580-8. doi: 10.1182/blood-2009-01-200923. Epub 2009 May 18.

CCL21 mediates CD4+ T-cell costimulation via a DOCK2/Rac-dependent pathway.

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Theodor Kocher Institute, University of Bern, Freiestrasse 1, Bern, Switzerland.


CD4(+) T cells use the chemokine receptor CCR7 to home to and migrate within lymphoid tissue, where T-cell activation takes place. Using primary T-cell receptor (TCR)-transgenic (tg) CD4(+) T cells, we explored the effect of CCR7 ligands, in particular CCL21, on T-cell activation. We found that the presence of CCL21 during early time points strongly increased in vitro T-cell proliferation after TCR stimulation, correlating with increased expression of early activation markers. CCL21 costimulation resulted in increased Ras- and Rac-GTP formation and enhanced phosphorylation of Akt, MEK, and ERK but not p38 or JNK. Kinase-dead PI3Kdelta(D910A/D910A) or PI3Kgamma-deficient TCR-tg CD4(+) T cells showed similar responsiveness to CCL21 costimulation as control CD4(+) T cells. Conversely, deficiency in the Rac guanine exchange factor DOCK2 significantly impaired CCL21-mediated costimulation in TCR-tg CD4(+) T cells, concomitant with impaired Rac- but not Ras-GTP formation. Using lymph node slices for live monitoring of T-cell behavior and activation, we found that G protein-coupled receptor signaling was required for early CD69 expression but not for Ca(2+) signaling. Our data suggest that the presence of CCL21 during early TCR signaling lowers the activation threshold through Ras- and Rac-dependent pathways leading to increased ERK phosphorylation.

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