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Curr Biol. 1998 May 7;8(10):563-72.

Defects in actin-cap formation in Vav-deficient mice implicate an actin requirement for lymphocyte signal transduction.

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Department of Pathology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, California 94305, USA.



Antigen-receptor interactions on lymphocytes result in local clustering of actin, receptors and signaling molecules into an asymmetric membrane structure termed a cap. Although actin polymerization is known to be required, the mechanisms underlying cap formation are unclear. We have studied the events underlying cap formation using mice bearing a null mutation in vav (vav-/-), a gene that encodes a guanine-nucleotide exchange factor for the GTPase Rac.


Lymphocytes from vav-/- mice failed to form T-cell receptor caps following activation and had a defective actin cytoskeleton. The vav-/- T cells were deficient in interleukin-2 (IL-2) production and proliferation, and the peak of Ca2+ mobilization was reduced although of normal duration. Activation of Jun N-terminal kinase or stress-activated kinase (JNK or SAPK) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and the induction of the transcription factor NF-ATc1 and egr-1 genes was normal. Despite the reduced Ca2+ mobilization, translocation of cytoplasmic NF-ATc to the nucleus was normal, reflecting that the lower levels of Ca2+ in vav-/- cells were still sufficient to activate calcineurin. Treatment of lymphocytes with cytochalasin D, which blocks actin polymerization, inhibited cap formation and produced defects in signaling and IL-2 transcriptional induction in response to antigen-receptor signaling that were nearly identical to those seen in vav-/- cells. In transfection studies, either constitutively active Vav or Rac could complement constitutively active calcineurin to activate NF-AT-dependent transcription.


These results indicate that Vav is required for cap formation in lymphocytes. Furthermore, the correlation between cap formation, IL-2 production and proliferation supports the hypothesis that an actin-dependent pathway is a source of specialized growth regulatory signals.

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