GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program



Molecular Medicine

First Thesis Advisor

Aldo A. Rossini


CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Clonal Anergy, Self Tolerance, T-Lymphocytes, Transcription Factors, Zinc Fingers


A side effect of generating an immune system for defense against invading pathogens is the potential to develop destructive cells that recognize self-tissues. Typically, through the "education" of developing immune cells, the organism inactivates potentially self-destructive cells, resulting in what is called self-tolerance. I proposed to explore the molecular mechanisms responsible for the induction and maintenance of tolerance. Our lab has developed a model of induced immune tolerance to skin and islet allografts utilizing a donor-specific transfusion of spleen cells and a brief course of anti-CD40L antibody. Because the difficulty in isolation of tolerant T cells from this system is prohibitive to performing large screens on these cells directly, I have chosen to study an in vitro CD4+Th1 cell line, A.E7, which can be made anergic via stimulation through the T cell receptor in the absence of costimulation. I hypothesized that anergized T cells upregulate genes that are responsible for the induction and maintenance of anergy and therefore exhibit a unique RNA expression profile. I have screened anergic cells using Affymetrix GeneChips and identified a small number of genes that are differentially expressed long-term in the anergic population compared to mock-stimulated and productively activated controls. The results have been confirmed by quantitative RT-PCR for each of the candidates. One of the most promising, the zinc-finger transcription factor Egr-2, was verified to be expressed long-term by western blotting, demonstrating perfect correlation between Egr-2 protein expression and the anergic phenotype. Silencing Egr-2 gene expression by siRNA in A.E7 T cells prior to anergy induction rescues the cells from the inability to phosphorylate ERK-1 and ERK-2 and also results in increased proliferation in response to antigen rechallenge. In this study I report that Egr-2 is specifically expressed long-term in anergic cells, protein expression correlates inversely with responsiveness to antigen rechallenge, and that Egr-2 is required for the full induction of anergy in T cell clones.



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