Interleukin-2 receptor alpha chain (IL-2R alpha) expression occurs at specific stages of early T and B lymphocyte development and is induced upon activation of mature lymphocytes. Young mice that lack IL-2R alpha have phenotypically normal development of T and B cells. However, as adults, these mice develop massive enlargement of peripheral lymphoid organs associated with polyclonal T and B cell expansion, which, for T cells, is correlated with impaired activation-induced cell death in vivo. Older IL-2R alpha-deficient mice also develop autoimmune disorders, including hemolytic anemia and inflammatory bowel disease. Thus, IL-2R alpha is essential for regulation of both the size and content of the peripheral lymphoid compartment, probably by influencing the balance between clonal expansion and cell death following lymphocyte activation.
Mutations in the Bruton's tyrosine kinase (Btk) gene have been linked to severe early B cell developmental blocks in human X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA), and to milder B cell activation deficiencies in murine X-linked immune deficiency (Xid). To elucidate unequivocally potential Btk functions in mice, we generated mutations in embryonic stem cells, which eliminated the ability to encode Btk pleckstrin homology or kinase domains, and assayed their effects by RAG2-deficient blastocyst complementation or introduction into the germline. Both mutations block expression of Btk protein and lead to reduced numbers of mature conventional B cells, severe B1 cell deficiency, serum IgM and IgG3 deficiency, and defective responses in vitro to various B cell activators and in vivo to immunization with thymus-independent type II antigens. These results prove that lack of Btk function results in an Xid phenotype and further suggest a differential requirement for Btk during the early stages of murine versus human B lymphocyte development.
Phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) activation has been implicated in many cellular responses, including fibroblast growth, transformation, survival, and chemotaxis. Although PI3K is activated by several agents that stimulate T and B cells, the role of PI3K in lymphocyte function is not clear. The mouse gene encoding the PI3K adapter subunit p85alpha and its splice variants p55alpha and p50alpha was disrupted. Most p85alpha-p55alpha-p50alpha-/- mice die within days after birth. Lymphocyte development and function was studied with the use of the RAG2-deficient blastocyst complementation system. Chimeric mice had reduced numbers of peripheral mature B cells and decreased serum immunoglobulin. The B cells that developed had diminished proliferative responses to antibody to immunoglobulin M, antibody to CD40, and lipopolysaccharide stimulation and decreased survival after incubation with interleukin-4. In contrast, T cell development and proliferation was normal. This phenotype is similar to defects observed in mice lacking the tyrosine kinase Btk.
The Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (WAS) is a human X-linked immunodeficiency resulting from mutations in a gene (WASP) encoding a cytoplasmic protein implicated in regulating the actin cytoskeleton. To elucidate WASP function, we disrupted the WASP gene in mice by gene-targeted mutation. WASP-deficient mice showed apparently normal lymphocyte development, normal serum immunoglobulin levels, and the capacity to respond to both T-dependent and T-independent type II antigens. However, these mice did have decreased peripheral blood lymphocyte and platelet numbers and developed chronic colitis. Moreover, purified WASP-deficient T cells showed markedly impaired proliferation and antigen receptor cap formation in response to anti-CD3epsilon stimulation. Yet, purified WASP-deficient B cells showed normal responses to anti-Ig stimulation. We discuss the implications of our findings regarding WASP function in receptor signaling and cytoskeletal reorganization in T and B cells and compare the effects of WASP deficiency in mice and humans.
The DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) consists of Ku70, Ku80, and a large catalytic subunit, DNA-PKcs. Targeted inactivation of the Ku70 or Ku80 genes results in elevated ionizing radiation (IR) sensitivity and inability to perform both V(D)J coding-end and signal (RS)-end joining in cells, with severe growth retardation plus immunodeficiency in mice. In contrast, we now demonstrate that DNA-PKcs-null mice generated by gene-targeted mutation, while also severely immunodeficient, exhibit no growth retardation. Furthermore, DNA-PKcs-null cells are blocked for V(D)J coding-end joining, but retain normal RS-end joining. Finally, while DNA-PK-null fibroblasts exhibited increased IR sensitivity, DNA-PKcs-deficient ES cells did not. We conclude that Ku70 and Ku80 may have functions in V(D)J recombination and DNA repair that are independent of DNA-PKcs.
Germline inactivation of c-myc in mice causes embryonic lethality. Therefore, we developed a LoxP/Cre-based conditional mutation approach to test the role of c-myc in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) and mature B lymphocytes. Cre expression resulted in reduced proliferation of wild-type MEFs, but c-Myc-deficient MEFs showed a further reduction. In contrast to fibroblasts, Cre expression had no apparent affect on wild-type B cell proliferation. Deletion of both c-Myc genes in B cells led to severely impaired proliferation in response to anti-CD40 plus IL-4. However, treated cells did upregulate several early activation markers but not CD95 or CD95 ligand. We discuss these findings with respect to potential c-Myc functions in proliferation and apoptosis and also discuss potential limitations in the Cre-mediated gene inactivation approach.
The Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein (WASP) family of molecules integrates upstream signalling events with changes in the actin cytoskeleton. N-WASP has been implicated both in the formation of cell-surface projections (filopodia) required for cell movement and in the actin-based motility of intracellular pathogens. To examine N-WASP function we have used homologous recombination to inactivate the gene encoding murine N-WASP. Whereas N-WASP-deficient embryos survive beyond gastrulation and initiate organogenesis, they have marked developmental delay and die before embryonic day 12. N-WASP is not required for the actin-based movement of the intracellular pathogen Listeria but is absolutely required for the motility of Shigella and vaccinia virus. Despite these distinct defects in bacterial and viral motility, N-WASP-deficient fibroblasts spread by using lamellipodia and can protrude filopodia. These results imply a crucial and non-redundant role for N-WASP in murine embryogenesis and in the actin-based motility of certain pathogens but not in the general formation of actin-containing structures.
The Ets-1 proto-oncogene is a member of a transcription factor family characterized by homology to the v-ets oncogene. In adult mice, Ets-1 is expressed predominantly in lymphoid cells where it has been implicated in regulating transcription of lymphocyte-specific genes. Following T-cell activation, the specific DNA binding activity of Ets-1 is inactivated by transient phosphorylation, suggesting a function in the transition from the resting to activated state. Ets-1 has also been suggested to cooperate with the AP-1 transcription factor complex to mediate cellular growth factor responses. Here we show, by using RAG-2-deficient blastocyst complementation, that Ets-1 deficiency has dramatic, but different, effects on development and function of T- and B-lineage cells. Ets-1-deficient T cells were present in reduced numbers and were highly susceptible to cell death in vitro. In contrast, Ets-1-deficient B cells were present in normal numbers but a large proportion were IgM plasma cells. Our data demonstrate that Ets-1 is essential for maintenance of the normal pool of resting T- and B-lineage cells.
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