University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications

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Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; Department of Pathology; Program in Molecular Medicine; Program in Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology; Garber Lab

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Article Preprint


Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins | Cell and Developmental Biology | Enzymes and Coenzymes | Immunopathology


The strength of peptide:MHC interactions with the T cell receptor (TCR) is correlated with the time to first cell division, the relative scale of the effector cell response, and the graded expression of activation-associated proteins like IRF4. To regulate T cell activation programming, the TCR and the TCR proximal kinase ITK simultaneously trigger many biochemically separate TCR signaling cascades. T cells lacking ITK exhibit selective impairments in effector T cell responses after activation, but under the strongest signaling conditions ITK activity is dispensable. To gain insight into whether TCR signal strength and ITK activity tune observed graded gene expression through unequal activation of disparate signaling pathways, we examined Erk1/2 activation and NFAT, NF-κB translocation in naive OT-I CD8+ cell nuclei. We observed consistent digital activation of NFAT1 and Erk-MAPK, but NF-κB displayed dynamic, graded activation in response to variation in TCR signal strength and was tunable by treatment with an ITK inhibitor. Inhibitor-treated cells showed dampened induction of AP-1 factors Fos and Fosb, NF-κB response gene transcripts, and survival factor Il2 transcripts. ATAC-seq analysis also revealed genomic regions most sensitive to ITK inhibition were enriched for NF-κB and AP-1 motifs. Specific inhibition of NF-κB during peptide stimulation tuned expression of early gene products like c-Fos. Together, these data indicate a key role for ITK in orchestrating optimal activation of separate TCR downstream pathways, specifically aiding NF-κB activation. More broadly, we revealed a mechanism by which variation in TCR signal strength can produce patterns of graded gene expression in activated T cells.


Immunology, gene induction, Tec kinase ITK, T cell activation

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bioRxiv 2020.11.12.380725; doi: Link to preprint on bioRxiv.


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.