GSBS Dissertations and Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Interdisciplinary Graduate Program, Immunology and Microbiology



First Thesis Advisor

Dr. Leslie J. Berg


Protein-Tyrosine Kinase, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Lymphocyte Activation, Interleukin-2, T-Lymphocyte Subsets


This dissertation addresses the role for Janus Kinase 3 (Jak3) in CD4+ T cell homeostasis and function. Jak3 is a protein tyrosine kinase whose activity is essential for signals mediated by the γc dependent cytokines IL-2, -4, -7, -9, -15, and -21. Previous data have demonstrated that peripheral CD4+ T cells from Jak3-deficient mice have a memory phenotype and are functionally impaired in both proliferative and IL-2 responses in vitro. Interestingly, Jak3/γc activity has been previously shown to play a role in the prevention of T cell anergy.

These studies were initiated to more precisely define the role for Jak3/γc cytokines in the prevention of T cell anergy and the maintenance of functional CD4+ T cell responses. We began to address this question by assessing global gene expression changes between wild type and Jak3-/- CD4+ T cells. These data indicate that Jak3-/- CD4+ T cells have an increase in gene expression levels of inhibitory surface receptors as well as immunosuppressive cytokines.

Further analyses confirmed that Jak3-deficient T cells express high levels of PD-1, secrete a Trl-type cytokine profile following direct ex vivo activation, and suppress the proliferation of wild type T cells in vitro. These characteristics indicate that CD4+ Jak3-/- T cells share properties with regulatory T cell subsets that have an important role in peripheral tolerance and the prevention of autoimmunity.

We next addressed whether these regulatory characteristics were T cell intrinsic or rather the result of expanding in a Jak3-deficient microenvironment characterized by a number of immune abnormalities and a disrupted splenic architecture. Jak3-/- CD4+ T cells proliferate in vivoin a lymphopenic environment and selectively acquire regulatory T cell characteristics in the absence of any additional activation signals. While the precise mechanism by which Jak3-deficient T cells acquire these characteristics remains unclear, our data indicate that one important component is a T cell-intrinsic requirement for Jak3 signaling.

These findings indicate several interesting aspects of T cell biology. First, these studies, demonstrate that the homeostatic proliferation of CD4+ T cells is not dependent on signaling via γc-dependent cytokine receptors. And, second, that the weak activation signals normally associated with homeostatic expansion are sufficient to drive Jak3-/- T cells into a non-conventional differentiation program. Previous data indicate that, for wild type T cells, signaling through both the TCR as well as γc-dependent cytokine receptors promote the homeostatic proliferation of T cells in lymphopenic hosts. Since Jak3-/- T cells are unable to receive these cytokine signals, their proliferation is likely to be wholly dependent on TCR signaling. As a consequence of this TCR signaling, Jak3-/- T cells proliferate, but in addition, are induced to up regulate PD-1 and to selectively activate the IL-10 locus while shutting off the production of IL-2. Since this fate does not occur for wild type T cells in a comparable environment, it is likely that the unique differentiation pathway taken by Jak3-/- T cells reflects the effects of TCR signaling in the absence of γc-dependent cytokine signaling.

Interestingly, wild type T cells undergoing homeostatic expansion in lymphopenic hosts show many common patterns of gene expression to freshly-purified unmanipulated Jak3-/- T cells. For instance, micro array analysis of gene expression in wild type CD4+ T cells after lymphopenia induced homeostatic expansion show a similar pattern of upregulation in surface markers (PD-1 and LAG-3), and cytokine signaling molecules (IL-10 and IFN-γ cytokine, receptors, and inducible gene targets) to that of Jak3-/- CD4+ T cells immediately ex vivo. These data suggest that the process of homeostatic proliferation normally induces immune attenuation and peripheral tolerance mechanisms, but that full differentiation into a regulatory T cell phenotype is prevented by γc-dependent cytokine signals.

Taken together these data suggest that Jak3 plays an important role in tempering typical immune attenuation mechanisms employed to maintain T cell homeostasis and peripheral tolerance.


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