GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Immunology and Microbiology



First Thesis Advisor

Leslie J. Berg, Ph.D.


Protein-Tyrosine Kinases, Natural Killer T-Cells


The immune system is a complex network of interacting cells and tissues that is designed to protect the body from pathogens and other foreign substances. T cells are a major component of the immune system and consist of two distinct lineages distinguished by the expression of αβ or γδ T cell receptors (TCR). The Tec family kinase, Itk is an important mediator of signaling downstream of the TCR. Past studies on Itk has focused on how Itk regulates development, activation and differentiation of conventional αβ T cells and more recently how Itk regulates the development of innate-like αβ T cells. However, very little is known about the influence of Itk on γδ T cells. My studies show a previously unknown role for Itk in the development and function of γδ T cells. We report in the absence of Itk, γδ T cells were responsible for the spontaneously elevated levels of serum IgE and Itk-/- mice γδ T cells produced high levels of TH2 cytokines. Furthermore, there was an increase in γδ T cells specifically in the Vγ1.1+Vδ6.3+ (V6) subset that represents the dominant population of γδ NKT cells in Itk-/- mice. In addition, the V6 subset had increased expression of PLZF, a transcription factor normally required for αβ iNKT cell development. We further show that V6 cells develop and mature similar to αβ iNKT cells. Similar to defects previously seen in the terminal differentiation of Itk-/- αβ iNKT cell, V6 cells also had impaired maturation in the thymus in the absence of Itk. This data demonstrates a previously unknown role of Itk for the terminal maturation of V6 cells that has been shown to be the cell population that led to spontaneous dermatitis in mice. Given that drug companies have targeted Itk as a potential allergy drug due to Itk’s role in TH2 development and function, our data suggests that further studies on Itk are warranted.



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