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Concept: T cell receptor


Sunlight has important biological effects in human skin. Ultraviolet (UV) light striking the epidermis catalyzes the synthesis of Vitamin D and triggers melanin production. Although a causative element in skin cancers, sunlight is also associated with positive health outcomes including reduced incidences of autoimmune diseases and cancers. The mechanisms, however, by which light affects immune function remain unclear. Here we describe direct photon sensing in human and mouse T lymphocytes, a cell-type highly abundant in skin. Blue light irradiation at low doses (<300 mJ cm(-2)) triggers synthesis of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in T cells revealed by the genetically encoded reporter HyPerRed. In turn, H2O2 activates a Src kinase/phospholipase C-γ1 (PLC-γ1) signaling pathway and Ca(2+) mobilization. Pharmacologic inhibition or genetic disruption of Lck kinase, PLC-γ1 or the T cell receptor complex inhibits light-evoked Ca(2+) transients. Notably, both light and H2O2 enhance T-cell motility in a Lck-dependent manner. Thus, T lymphocytes possess intrinsic photosensitivity and this property may enhance their motility in skin.

Concepts: Immune system, Vitamin D, Ultraviolet, T cell, Major histocompatibility complex, T cell receptor, Lck, Thymus


Distinct signaling pathways producing diverse cellular outcomes can utilize similar subsets of proteins. For example, proteins from the T cell receptor (TCR) early signaling complex (ESC) are also involved in interferon-α receptor signaling. Defining the mechanism for how these proteins function within a given pathway is important in understanding the integration and communication of signaling networks with one another. We investigated the contributions of the TCR ESC proteins Lck, ZAP-70, Vav1, SLP-76, and LAT to integrin outside-in signaling in human T cells. Lck, ZAP-70, SLP-76, Vav1, and LAT were activated by α4β1 outside-in signaling but in a manner different from TCR signaling. TCR stimulation recruits ESC proteins to activate the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK). α4β1 outside-in-mediated ERK activation did not require TCR ESC proteins. However, α4β1 outside-in signaling induced CD25 and costimulated CD69 and this was dependent upon TCR ESC proteins. TCR and α4β1 outside-in signaling are integrated through the common use of TCR ESC proteins; however, these proteins display functionally distinct roles in these pathways. These novel insights into the crosstalk between integrin outside-in and TCR signaling pathways are highly relevant to the development of therapeutic strategies to overcome disease associated with T cell deregulation.

Concepts: Protein, Signal transduction, T cell, T cell receptor, Lck, MAPK/ERK pathway, Mitogen-activated protein kinase, Extracellular signal-regulated kinases


Autologous T cells engineered to express chimeric antigen receptor against the B cell antigen CD19 (CAR19) are achieving marked leukemic remissions in early-phase trials but can be difficult to manufacture, especially in infants or heavily treated patients. We generated universal CAR19 (UCART19) T cells by lentiviral transduction of non-human leukocyte antigen-matched donor cells and simultaneous transcription activator-like effector nuclease (TALEN)-mediated gene editing of T cell receptor α chain and CD52 gene loci. Two infants with relapsed refractory CD19(+) B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia received lymphodepleting chemotherapy and anti-CD52 serotherapy, followed by a single-dose infusion of UCART19 cells. Molecular remissions were achieved within 28 days in both infants, and UCART19 cells persisted until conditioning ahead of successful allogeneic stem cell transplantation. This bridge-to-transplantation strategy demonstrates the therapeutic potential of gene-editing technology.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, B cell, T cell, Major histocompatibility complex, T cell receptor, Leukemia, Acute lymphoblastic leukemia


Four Ebola patients received care at Emory University Hospital, presenting a unique opportunity to examine the cellular immune responses during acute Ebola virus infection. We found striking activation of both B and T cells in all four patients. Plasmablast frequencies were 10-50% of B cells, compared with less than 1% in healthy individuals. Many of these proliferating plasmablasts were IgG-positive, and this finding coincided with the presence of Ebola virus-specific IgG in the serum. Activated CD4 T cells ranged from 5 to 30%, compared with 1-2% in healthy controls. The most pronounced responses were seen in CD8 T cells, with over 50% of the CD8 T cells expressing markers of activation and proliferation. Taken together, these results suggest that all four patients developed robust immune responses during the acute phase of Ebola virus infection, a finding that would not have been predicted based on our current assumptions about the highly immunosuppressive nature of Ebola virus. Also, quite surprisingly, we found sustained immune activation after the virus was cleared from the plasma, observed most strikingly in the persistence of activated CD8 T cells, even 1 mo after the patients' discharge from the hospital. These results suggest continued antigen stimulation after resolution of the disease. From these convalescent time points, we identified CD4 and CD8 T-cell responses to several Ebola virus proteins, most notably the viral nucleoprotein. Knowledge of the viral proteins targeted by T cells during natural infection should be useful in designing vaccines against Ebola virus.

Concepts: Immune system, Virus, T helper cell, T cell, Antigen, Major histocompatibility complex, T cell receptor, Cytotoxic T cell


The mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway integrates diverse environmental inputs, including immune signals and metabolic cues, to direct T-cell fate decisions. The activation of mTOR, which is the catalytic subunit of the mTORC1 and mTORC2 complexes, delivers an obligatory signal for the proper activation and differentiation of effector CD4(+) T cells, whereas in the regulatory T-cell (Treg) compartment, the Akt-mTOR axis is widely acknowledged as a crucial negative regulator of Treg-cell de novo differentiation and population expansion. However, whether mTOR signalling affects the homeostasis and function of Treg cells remains largely unexplored. Here we show that mTORC1 signalling is a pivotal positive determinant of Treg-cell function in mice. Treg cells have elevated steady-state mTORC1 activity compared to naive T cells. Signals through the T-cell antigen receptor (TCR) and interleukin-2 (IL-2) provide major inputs for mTORC1 activation, which in turn programs the suppressive function of Treg cells. Disruption of mTORC1 through Treg-specific deletion of the essential component raptor leads to a profound loss of Treg-cell suppressive activity in vivo and the development of a fatal early onset inflammatory disorder. Mechanistically, raptor/mTORC1 signalling in Treg cells promotes cholesterol and lipid metabolism, with the mevalonate pathway particularly important for coordinating Treg-cell proliferation and upregulation of the suppressive molecules CTLA4 and ICOS to establish Treg-cell functional competency. By contrast, mTORC1 does not directly affect the expression of Foxp3 or anti- and pro-inflammatory cytokines in Treg cells, suggesting a non-conventional mechanism for Treg-cell functional regulation. Finally, we provide evidence that mTORC1 maintains Treg-cell function partly through inhibiting the mTORC2 pathway. Our results demonstrate that mTORC1 acts as a fundamental ‘rheostat’ in Treg cells to link immunological signals from TCR and IL-2 to lipogenic pathways and functional fitness, and highlight a central role of metabolic programming of Treg-cell suppressive activity in immune homeostasis and tolerance.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Metabolism, T cell, T cells, Major histocompatibility complex, T cell receptor, Naive T cell


The mechanisms that mediate durable protection against Staphylococcus aureus skin reinfections are unclear, as recurrences are common despite high antibody titers and memory T cells. Here, we developed a mouse model of S. aureus skin reinfection to investigate protective memory responses. In contrast with WT mice, IL-1β-deficient mice exhibited poor neutrophil recruitment and bacterial clearance during primary infection that was rescued during secondary S. aureus challenge. The γδ T cells from skin-draining LNs utilized compensatory T cell-intrinsic TLR2/MyD88 signaling to mediate rescue by trafficking and producing TNF and IFN-γ, which restored neutrophil recruitment and promoted bacterial clearance. RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) of the LNs revealed a clonotypic S. aureus-induced γδ T cell expansion with a complementarity-determining region 3 (CDR3) aa sequence identical to that of invariant Vγ5+ dendritic epidermal T cells. However, this T cell receptor γ (TRG) aa sequence of the dominant CDR3 sequence was generated from multiple gene rearrangements of TRGV5 and TRGV6, indicating clonotypic expansion. TNF- and IFN-γ-producing γδ T cells were also expanded in peripheral blood of IRAK4-deficient humans no longer predisposed to S. aureus skin infections. Thus, clonally expanded γδ T cells represent a mechanism for long-lasting immunity against recurrent S. aureus skin infections.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Gene, Bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, Infection, Staphylococcus, T cell receptor


OBJECTIVE: To investigate changes in the T-cell repertoire in patients with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) without and with treatment of IV immunoglobulins (IVIg). METHODS: The T-cell receptor (TCR) repertoire of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in the peripheral blood was analyzed using CDR3 spectratyping. Patients with CIDP were included without (n = 14) and with IVIg treatment (n = 11) cross-sectionally and longitudinally (n = 2). RESULTS: While the TCR length distribution of patients with CIDP was only moderately altered for most of the Vβ elements of CD4+ T cells, the CD8+ population displayed extensive oligoclonal expansions in all analyzed 24 Vβ elements. A public expansion of a distinct TCR length in one Vβ element within a majority of affected patients was not detectable. Treatment with IVIg reduced the oligoclonal expansions within both the CD4+ and CD8+ population. CONCLUSIONS: Our data demonstrate that cytotoxic CD8+ T cells exhibit a much broader activation than CD4+ T cells, indicating a potentially crucial role of CD8+ T cells in the immunopathogenesis of CIDP. The profound oligoclonal response in T-cell activation suggests that multiple peptides may induce and propagate this autoimmune-driven disease. The observed reduction of highly activated T cells may contribute to the therapeutic effects of IVIg.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Natural killer cell, T cell, T cell receptor, Myelin, Intravenous immunoglobulin, Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy


T cells engineered to express a tumor-specific αβ T cell receptor (TCR) mediate anti-tumor immunity. However, mispairing of the therapeutic αβ chains with endogenous αβ chains reduces therapeutic TCR surface expression and generates self-reactive TCRs. We report a general strategy to prevent TCR mispairing: swapping constant domains between the α and β chains of a therapeutic TCR. When paired, domain-swapped (ds)TCRs assemble with CD3, express on the cell surface, and mediate antigen-specific T cell responses. By contrast, dsTCR chains mispaired with endogenous chains cannot properly assemble with CD3 or signal, preventing autoimmunity. We validate this approach in cell-based assays and in a mouse model of TCR gene transfer-induced graft-versus-host disease. We also validate a related approach whereby replacement of αβ TCR domains with corresponding γδ TCR domains yields a functional TCR that does not mispair. This work enables the design of safer TCR gene therapies for cancer immunotherapy.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Gene, Hormone, T cells, Cell signaling, Major histocompatibility complex, T cell receptor


MALT1 channels proximal T-cell receptor (TCR) signalling to downstream signalling pathways. With MALT1A and MALT1B two conserved splice variants exist and we demonstrate here that MALT1 alternative splicing supports optimal T-cell activation. Inclusion of exon7 in MALT1A facilitates the recruitment of TRAF6, which augments MALT1 scaffolding function, but not protease activity. Naive CD4(+) T cells express almost exclusively MALT1B and MALT1A expression is induced by TCR stimulation. We identify hnRNP U as a suppressor of exon7 inclusion. Whereas selective depletion of MALT1A impairs T-cell signalling and activation, downregulation of hnRNP U enhances MALT1A expression and T-cell activation. Thus, TCR-induced alternative splicing augments MALT1 scaffolding to enhance downstream signalling and to promote optimal T-cell activation.

Concepts: Gene expression, Signal transduction, T cell, T cell receptor, Alternative splicing


The activation, differentiation, and subsequent effector functions of CD4 T cells depend on interactions with a multitude of MHC class II (MHCII)-expressing APCs. To evaluate the individual contribution of various APCs to CD4 T cell function, we have designed a new murine tool for selective in vivo expression of MHCII in subsets of APCs. Conditional expression of MHCII in B cells was achieved using a cre-loxP approach. After i.v. or s.c. priming, partial proliferation and activation of CD4 T cells was observed in mice expressing MHCII only by B cells. Restricting MHCII expression to B cells constrained secondary CD4 T cell responses in vivo, as demonstrated in a CD4 T cell-dependent model of autoimmunity, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. These results highlight the limitations of B cell Ag presentation during initiation and propagation of CD4 T cell function in vivo using a novel system to study individual APCs by the conditional expression of MHCII.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, B cell, T helper cell, Adaptive immune system, Major histocompatibility complex, T cell receptor, MHC class I