Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Immunology and Microbiology



First Thesis Advisor

Dr. Leslie J. Berg


Protein-Tyrosine Kinase, CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Cytokines


Itk and Rlk are members of the Tec kinase family of non-receptor protein tyrosine kinases that are preferentially expressed in T cells. Numerous previous studies have demonstrated that these proteins play an important a role in the regulation of signalling processes downstream of TCR activation in CD4+ T cells, particularly in the phosphorylation of PLCγl. In addition, Itk and Rlk have both been shown to be important for CD4+ T cell development, differentiation, function and homeostasis following TCR activation. In the absence of Itk and Rlk, CD8+ SP thymocytes and T cells develop a memory/previously activated phenotypic profile, however, very little is known about the influence of Itk and Rlk on CD8+ T cell development and function. This study illustrates a previously unappreciated role for Itk and Rlk in the regulation of cytokine signals during CD8+ SP thymocyte maturation, and in the development of the memory CD44hi profile of Itk -/- and Itk -/- Rlk -/- CD8+ SP thymocytes and CD8+ T cells. This study also provides the first detailed study of the role of loss of Itk and particularly both Itk and Rlk in CD8+ signalling and function and shows that these Tec kinase family members play an important role in the maintenance of CD8+ T cell fitness and function, particularly in the ability of CD8+ T cells to accumulate in response to infection. Collectively, my studies demonstrate a critical role for Itk and Rlk in the generation of optimal CD8+ T cell responses. They also raise the novel observation that these proteins may be involved on the regulation of cytokine signals in T cells.


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