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PKCθ Signaling in T Lymphocytes | GeneGlobe

PKCθ Signaling in T Lymphocytes


Pathway Description

An effective immune response depends on the ability of specialized leukocytes to identify foreign molecules and respond by differentiation into mature effector cells. A cell surface antigen recognition apparatus and a complex intracellular receptor-coupled signal transducing machinery mediate this tightly regulated process which operates at high fidelity to discriminate self antigens from non-self antigens. Activation of T cells requires sustained physical interaction of the TCR with an MHC-presented peptide antigen that results in a temporal and spatial reorganization of multiple cellular elements at the T-Cell-APC contact region, a specialized region referred to as the immunological synapse or supramolecular activation cluster. Recent studies have identified PKCθ, a member of the Ca-independent PKC family, as an essential component of the T-Cell supramolecular activation cluster that mediates several crucial functions in TCR signaling leading to cell activation, differentiation, and survival through IL-2 gene induction.High levels of PKCθ are expressed in skeletal muscle and lymphoid tissues, predominantly in the thymus and lymph nodes, with lower levels in spleen. T cells constitute the primary location for PKCθ expression. Among T cells, CD4+/CD8+ single positive peripheral blood T cells and CD4+/CD8+ double positive thymocytes are found to express high levels of PKCθ. On the surface of T cells, TCR/CD3 engagement induces activation of Src, Syk, ZAP70 and Tec-family PTKs leading to stimulation and membrane recruitment of PLCγ1, PI3K and Vav. A Vav mediated pathway, which depends on Rac and actin cytoskeleton reorganization as well as on PI3K, is responsible for the selective recruitment of PKCθ to the supramolecular activation cluster. PLCγ1-generated DAG also plays a role in the initial recruitment of PKCθ.

The transcription factors NF-κB and AP-1 are the primary physiological targets of PKCθ. Efficient activation of these transcription factors by PKCθ requires integration of TCR and CD28 co-stimulatory signals. CD28 with its CD80/CD86 (B7-1/B7-2) ligands on APCs is required for the recruitment of PKCθ specifically to the supramolecular activation cluster. The transcriptional element which serves as a target for TCR/CD28 costimulation is CD28RE in the IL-2 promoter. CD28RE is a combinatorial binding site for NF-κB and AP-1. Recent studies suggest that regulation of TCR coupling to NF-κB by PKCθ is affected through a variety of distinct mechanisms. PKCθ may directly associate with and regulate the IKK complex; PKCθ may regulate the IKK complex indirectly though CaMKII; It may act upstream of a newly described pathway involving BCL10 and MALT1, which together regulate NF-κB and IκB via the IKK complex.

PKCθ has been found to promote Activation-induced T cell death (AICD), an important process that limits the expansion of activated antigen-specific T cells and ensures termination of an immune response once the specific pathogen has been cleared. Enzymatically active PKCθ selectively synergizes with calcineurin to activate a caspase 8-mediated Fas/FasL-dependent AICD. CD28 co-stimulation plays an essential role in TCR-mediated IL-2 production, and in its absence the T cell enters a stable state of unresponsiveness termed anergy. PKCθ-mediated CREB phosphorylation and its subsequent binding to a cAMP-response element in the IL-2 promoter negatively regulates IL-2 transcription thereby driving the responding T cells into an anergic state. The selective expression of PKCθ in T-Cells and its essential role in mature T cell activation establish it as an attractive drug target for immunosuppression in transplantation and autoimmune diseases.