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J Immunol. 2001 Mar 1;166(5):3201-9.

Uncoupling p70(s6) kinase activation and proliferation: rapamycin-resistant proliferation of human CD8(+) T lymphocytes.

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Laboratory of Molecular Immunology, Center for Neurologic Diseases, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Rapamycin is a fungal macrolide that inhibits the proliferation of T cells. Studies in both animals and humans have found that rapamycin significantly reduces graft rejection. However, though CD8(+) T cells are involved in graft infiltration and rejection, little is known regarding the effects of rapamycin on CD8(+) human T cell responses. In this study, we examined the mechanism of rapamycin-induced inhibition of Ag-driven activation of CD8(+) T cells. Surprisingly, a heterogeneous proliferative response in the presence of rapamycin was observed among different Ag-specific CD8(+) T cell clones; this was also observed in CD8(+) peripheral blood T cells activated with TCR cross-linking ex vivo. Inhibition of T cell proliferation by rapamycin was controlled by both the strength of signal delivered through the Ag receptor as well as the specific costimulatory signals received by the T cell. Rapamycin-resistant proliferation occurred despite inhibition of p70(s6) kinase activity. Moreover, rapamycin-resistant proliferation of the CD8(+) T cell clones was blocked by anti-IL-2 Abs, suggesting that while some of the parallel pathways triggered by IL-2R signaling are sensitive to the effects of rapamycin, others account for the Ag-driven rapamycin resistance. These data provide a new framework for examining the specific mechanism of action of rapamycin in human disease.

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