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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Jul 26;108(30):12443-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1103915108. Epub 2011 Jul 11.

Induction of PP2A Bβ, a regulator of IL-2 deprivation-induced T-cell apoptosis, is deficient in systemic lupus erythematosus.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


The activity and substrate specificity of the ubiquitously expressed phosphatase PP2A is determined by the type of regulatory (B) subunit that couples to the catalytic/scaffold core of the enzyme. We determined that the Bβ subunit (PPP2R2B) is expressed in resting T cells, its transcription is down-regulated during T-cell activation, and up-regulated in conditions of low IL-2. Specifically, high levels of PP2A Bβ were produced during IL-2 deprivation-induced apoptosis, whereas Fas ligation had no effect. Forced expression of the Bβ subunit in primary human T cells was sufficient to induce apoptosis, whereas silencing using siRNA protected activated T cells from IL-2 withdrawal-induced cell death. Because T-cell apoptosis is known to be altered in T cells from patients with systemic lupus erythematosus, we analyzed the regulation of PP2A Bβ in this autoimmune disease. We found that levels of PP2A Bβ did not increase upon IL-2 deprivation in 50% of the patients. Remarkably, this defect was accompanied by resistance to apoptosis. Importantly, kinetics of cell death were normal in cells of patients that up-regulated PP2A Bβ in a normal manner. We have identified a unique role for the phosphatase PP2A, particularly the holoenzyme formed by PP2A Bβ. Bβ appears to trigger apoptosis of T cells in the absence of IL-2 and probably contributes to the termination of a no-longer-needed immune response. We propose that defective production of PP2A Bβ upon IL-2 deprivation results in apoptosis resistance and longer survival of autoreactive T cells, in a subset of SLE patients.

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