GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Title

R T 6: a Bifunctional Protein of Regulatory T Cells

Approval Date

December 1995

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Department

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Subjects

T-Lymphocytes; Membrane Proteins; Immunity, Cellular; Academic Dissertations

Abstract

The immune system is a complex network of cells and molecules that is a powerful and necessary defense mechanism to protect the host from pathogens. When this system is non-functional or dysregulated, the host is susceptible to takeover or attack against self, both with often lethal sequelae. Over the past century remarkable advances have been made in understanding how the immune system functions and how to manipulate this knowledge for human benefit. One strategy used to understand immune system function is to determine how the activity of immune system cells is modulated by the proteins these cells express on their surface.

One rat T cell surface protein which was originally identified with antibodies almost two decades ago is the rat T cell alloantigen, RT6. During the intervening time enormous progress has been made in understanding the function of RT6+ T cells in normal and abnormal immune responses. In addition, during this time the characterization of RT6 genes, proteins, and homologues has occurred. One characterization of RT6 that is enigmatically missing is the function of this molecule. With this information it would be possible to determine how this molecule modulates T cell function. Therefore this project set out to begin to functionally characterize RT6 proteins. Part 1 of this project set out to determine if cell-surface RT6 proteins, like some other T cell surface proteins, could mediate T cell activation. Part 2 of this project was based on the recent observation that RT6 is homologous to NAD-catabolizing enzymes, and it was investigated whether RT6 proteins have ADP-ribosyltransferase activity.

In Part 1 of this work it is demonstrated that cell-surface RT6 proteins are capable of delivering activation signals to T cells. Crosslinking cell-surface RT6 with antibodies potentiates the ability of PMA treated T cells to proliferate in response to the T cell growth factors IL-2 and/or IL-4. Crosslinking RT6 on these cells increases the surface expression of IL-2 receptors, suggesting that RT6-mediated signals selectively enhance growth factor receptor expression. This work also investigated the mechanism through which RT6 may deliver its signal. It is demonstrated that RT6 proteins are physically associated with five other proteins, including the src family tyrosine kinases p56lck and p60fyn. This work also suggests a novel mechanism to regulate T cell signaling by accessory molecules, since PKC activation causes qualitative and quantitative changes in the proteins physically associated with RT6. This work indicates that cell-surface RT6 is capable of delivering an accessory T cell activation signal. Therefore, RT6 proteins may be involved in vivo with the activation and proliferation of RT6+ T cells.

Previous work in another laboratory has demonstrated that the RT6.2 protein possesses NAD glycohydrolase activity and indicated that RT6 proteins share overall sequence homology with ADP-ribosyltransferases. In Part 2 of this work, RT6 proteins are shown to possess NAD:arginine ADP-ribosyltransferase activity. ADP-ribosylation of proteins is a modification known to affect cell signaling and function. It is further demonstrated in this work that the substrate for RT6, extracellular NAD, inhibits T cell proliferation in a dose- and stimulus-dependent manner. Taken together, these studies suggest that through their enzymatic activities RT6 proteins modulate T cell activity.

This work is the first to demonstrate that RT6 has two, possibly separate, functional characteristics. RT6 can therefore be described as a bifunctional T cell surface protein. RT6+ T cells play critical roles in regulating immune system responses in health and disease. Because of these functional studies on RT6 proteins, it can now be investigated how RT6 proteins may modulate T cell responses in different immunological situations. Thus, this work will provide the foundation to determine if and how RT6 proteins modulate immune system function in health and disease.

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