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J Exp Med. 2020 Feb 3;217(2). pii: e20190969. doi: 10.1084/jem.20190969.

Mevalonate metabolism-dependent protein geranylgeranylation regulates thymocyte egress.

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Department of Immunology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN.
Hartwell Center for Bioinformatics and Biotechnology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN.
Sahlgrenska Cancer Center, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Göteborg, Sweden.
Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


Thymocyte egress is a critical determinant of T cell homeostasis and adaptive immunity. Despite the roles of G protein-coupled receptors in thymocyte emigration, the downstream signaling mechanism remains poorly defined. Here, we report the discrete roles for the two branches of mevalonate metabolism-fueled protein prenylation pathway in thymocyte egress and immune homeostasis. The protein geranylgeranyltransferase Pggt1b is up-regulated in single-positive thymocytes, and loss of Pggt1b leads to marked defects in thymocyte egress and T cell lymphopenia in peripheral lymphoid organs in vivo. Mechanistically, Pggt1b bridges sphingosine-1-phosphate and chemokine-induced migratory signals with the activation of Cdc42 and Pak signaling and mevalonate-dependent thymocyte trafficking. In contrast, the farnesyltransferase Fntb, which mediates a biochemically similar process of protein farnesylation, is dispensable for thymocyte egress but contributes to peripheral T cell homeostasis. Collectively, our studies establish context-dependent effects of protein prenylation and unique roles of geranylgeranylation in thymic egress and highlight that the interplay between cellular metabolism and posttranslational modification underlies immune homeostasis.


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