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Am J Pathol. 2011 Jun;178(6):2740-51. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2011.02.022.

Aberrant CD8+ T-cell responses and memory differentiation upon viral infection of an ataxia-telangiectasia mouse model driven by hyper-activated Akt and mTORC1 signaling.

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Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.


Immune system-related pathology is common in ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) patients and mice that lack the protein kinase, A-T mutated (ATM). However, it has not been studied how ATM influences immune responses to a viral infection. Using the lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) infection model, we show that ATM(-/-) mice, despite having fewer naïve CD8⁺ T cells, effectively clear the virus. However, aberrant CD8⁺ T-cell responses are observed, including defective expansion and contraction, effector-to-memory differentiation, and a switch in viral-epitope immunodominance. T-cell receptor-activated, but not naïve, ATM(-/-) splenic CD8⁺ T cells have increased ribosomal protein S6 and Akt phosphorylation and do not proliferate well in response to IL-15, a cytokine important for memory T-cell development. Accordingly, pharmacological Akt or mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) inhibition during T-cell receptor activation alone rescues the IL-15 proliferation defect. Finally, rapamycin treatment during LCMV infection in vivo increases the number of memory T cells in ATM(-/-) mice. Altogether, these results show that CD8⁺T cells lacking ATM have hyperactive Akt and mTORC1 signaling in response to T-cell receptor activation, which results in aberrant cytokine responses and memory T-cell development. We speculate that similar signaling defects contribute to the immune system pathology of A-T, and that inhibition of Akt and/or mTORC1 may be of therapeutic value.

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