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J Immunol. 1994 Aug 15;153(4):1563-80.

Developmental regulation of the TCR zeta-chain. Differential expression and tyrosine phosphorylation of the TCR zeta-chain in resting immature and mature T lymphocytes.

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Department of Pediatrics, National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, Denver, CO 80206.


The zeta subunit of the TCR complex targets receptor surface expression, is phosphorylated on tyrosine residues upon T cell activation, and is implicated in signal transduction after TCR ligation. Here we show that, although intrathymic expression of the murine TCR-associated zeta-chain relative to the other chains of the Ag receptor complex remains unchanged during early thymocyte development, there is a doubling of TCR-associated zeta-chain surface expression upon thymocyte maturation. The ratio of tyrosine-phosphorylated relative to nonphosphorylated TCR-associated zeta-chain also changes with thymocyte development. This ratio was quantified after the purification and detergent extraction of receptor complexes from freshly isolated immature or mature thymocytes. Immunoprecipitation of the zeta-chain released from the complex allowed for the isolation of the tyrosine-phosphorylated and nonphosphorylated forms of TCR-associated zeta-chain. Intracellular free zeta-chain was characterized by immunoprecipitation after clearing the cell lysate of intact TCR complexes. Densitometric analysis of immunoblots indicated that surface phosphorylated zeta-chain is more abundant in immature relative to mature T cell populations, whereas the inverse is true of intracellular phosphorylated zeta-chain. Surface phosphorylated zeta-chain also migrated at a higher m.w. than its cytoplasmic counterpart, suggesting that it is more highly modified on some or all of its available tyrosines. These findings demonstrate that the stoichiometry and post-translational modification of the TCR complex are regulated, in vivo, and may determine the functional maturation of T cell signaling, selection, and activation.

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