Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Immunology and Microbiology



First Thesis Advisor

Leslie J. Berg, Ph.D.


Protein-Tyrosine Kinases, CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Cell Differentiation, Killer Cells, Natural, Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell, gamma-delta


The Tec family kinases Itk and Rlk have been previously shown to have an important role in signaling downstream of the T cell receptor [TCR]. Almost all of the work done in the past on these two kinases looked at their role in conventional αβ T cells, specifically CD4+ T cells. These studies demonstrated functions for Itk [primarily] and Rlk in T cell development, activation, and differentiation. However, despite the wealth of knowledge on conventional CD4+ T cells, prior to the work presented here little to no studies addressed the role of Tec family kinases on CD8+ or innate T cell development. My studies show a clear role for Itk [and in some cases Rlk] in innate T cell development; whether it be deprecating, in the case of innate CD8+ T cells or some subsets of γδ T cells, or beneficial, in the case of NKT cells. I show that Itk has a crucial role in conventional CD8+ T cell development, as absence of Itk [or Itk and Rlk] causes strongly reduced numbers of conventional CD8+ T cells and a vigorous enhancement of an innate-like CD8+ T cell population. In NKT cells, my work demonstrates that Itk [and to a lesser extent Rlk] is required for terminal maturation, survival, and cytokine secretion. Finally, on γδ T cells Itk is important in maintaining the Th1 cytokine secretion profile usually associated with these cells, and regulating the development of CD4+ or NK1.1+ γδ T cells. Taken together, this work clearly illustrates an important role for Tec family kinases in innate T cell development and function.



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