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PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e25540. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0025540. Epub 2011 Sep 26.

Basal LAT-diacylglycerol-RasGRP1 signals in T cells maintain TCRα gene expression.

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Department of Anatomy, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America.


In contrast to the well-characterized T cell receptor (TCR) signaling pathways that induce genes that drive T cell development or polarization of naïve CD4 T cells into the diverse T(H)1, T(H)2, T(H)17 and T(reg) lineages, it is unclear what signals maintain specific gene expression in mature resting T cells. Resting T cells residing in peripheral lymphoid organs exhibit low-level constitutive signaling. Whereas tonic signals in B cells are known to be critical for survival, the roles of tonic signals in peripheral T cells are unknown. Here we demonstrate that constitutive signals in Jurkat T cell lines are transduced via the adapter molecule LAT and the Ras exchange factor RasGRP1 to maintain expression of TCRα mRNA and surface expression of the TCR/CD3 complex. Independent approaches of reducing basal activity through the LAT-diacylglycerol-RasGRP pathway led to reduced constitutive Ras-MEK-ERK signals and decreased TCRα mRNA and surface TCR expression in Jurkat cells. However, loss of TCR expression takes several days in these cell line experiments. In agreement with these in vitro approaches, inducible deletion of Lat in vivo results in reduced TCRα mRNA- and surface TCR-expression in a delayed temporal manner as well. Lastly, we demonstrate that loss of basal LAT-RasGRP signals appears to lead to silencing or repression of TCRα transcription. We postulate that basal LAT-diacylglycerol-RasGRP signals fulfill a regulatory function in peripheral T lymphocytes by maintaining proper gene expression programs.

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