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J Immunol. 2012 Apr 15;188(8):3745-56. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1102609. Epub 2012 Mar 14.

Antigen-independent induction of Tim-3 expression on human T cells by the common γ-chain cytokines IL-2, IL-7, IL-15, and IL-21 is associated with proliferation and is dependent on the phosphoinositide 3-kinase pathway.

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Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A8, Canada.


T cell Ig mucin domain-containing molecule 3 (Tim-3) is a glycoprotein found on the surface of a subset of CD8(+) and Th1 CD4(+) T cells. Elevated expression of Tim-3 on virus-specific T cells during chronic viral infections, such as HIV-1, hepatitis B virus, and hepatitis C virus, positively correlates with viral load. Tim-3(+) cytotoxic T cells are dysfunctional and are unable to secrete effector cytokines, such as IFN-γ and TNF-α. In this study, we examined potential inducers of Tim-3 on primary human T cells. Direct HIV-1 infection of CD4(+) T cells, or LPS, found to be elevated in HIV-1 infection, did not induce Tim-3 on T cells. Tim-3 was induced by the common γ-chain (γc) cytokines IL-2, IL-7, IL-15, and IL-21 but not IL-4, in an Ag-independent manner and was upregulated on primary T cells in response to TCR/CD28 costimulation, as well as γc cytokine stimulation with successive divisions. γc cytokine-induced Tim-3 was found on naive, effector, and memory subsets of T cells. Tim-3(+) primary T cells were more prone to apoptosis, particularly upon treatment with galectin-9, a Tim-3 ligand, after cytokine withdrawal. The upregulation of Tim-3 could be blocked by the addition of a PI3K inhibitor, LY 294002. Thus, Tim-3 can be induced via TCR/CD28 costimulation and/or γc cytokines, likely through the PI3K pathway.

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