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Members of the nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB/Rel family transcription factors are induced during thymic selection and in mature T lymphocytes after ligation of the T cell antigen receptor (TCR). Despite these findings, disruption of individual NF-kappaB/Rel genes has revealed no intrinsic defect in the development of mature T cells, perhaps reflecting functional redundancy. To circumvent this possibility, the T cell lineage was targeted to express a trans-dominant form of IkappaBalpha that constitutively represses the activity of multiple NF-kappaB/Rel proteins. Transgenic cells expressing this inhibitor exhibit a significant proliferative defect, which is not reversed by the addition of exogenous interleukin-2. Moreover, mitogenic stimulation of splenocytes leads to increased apoptosis of transgenic T cells as compared with controls. In addition to deregulated T cell growth and survival, transgene expression impairs the development of normal T cell populations as evidenced by diminished numbers of TCRhi CD8 single-positive thymocytes. This defect was significantly amplified in the periphery and was accompanied by a decrease in CD4(+) T cells. Taken together, these in vivo findings indicate that the NF-kappaB/Rel signaling pathway contains compensatory components that are essential for the establishment of normal T cell subsets.
The generation of knockout mice with targeted gene disruption has provided a valuable tool for studying the immune response. Here we describe the use of CD4 and CD8 knockout mice to examine the role of CD4+ and CD8+ cells in initiating allotransplantation rejection. Pretreatment with a brief course of depletive anti-CD4 monoclonal antibody therapy allowed permanent survival of heart, but not skin, allografts transplanted across a major histocompatibility barrier. However, skin as well as heart grafts were permanently accepted in the CD4 knockout mice. Transfer of CD4+ cells into CD4 knockout recipient mice 1 d before skin engraftment reconstituted rejection, demonstrating that CD4+ cells are necessary for initiating rejection of allogeneic transplants. Major histocompatibility complex disparate heart and skin allografts transplanted into CD8 knockout recipients were rejected within 10 d. This study demonstrates that CD4+ but not CD8+ T cells are absolutely required to initiate allograft rejection.
Mice deficient in the gene encoding the transporter associated with antigen processing 1 (TAP1) are defective in providing major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules with cytosolic peptides. Consequently, these mice express reduced levels of MHC class I glycoproteins on the cell surface, and have reduced numbers of CD8+ T cells in the periphery. In the present study, we have addressed the diversity and specificity of the peripheral CD8+ T cell population in TAP1 -/- mice. CD8+ T cells were polyclonal with regard to T cell receptor (TCR) V beta expression. Overall, V beta usage in TAP1 -/- mice appear to be very similar to that in wild-type mice, with significantly reduced levels of V beta 5.1/5.2-expressing CD8+ T cells as the only clear exception. This polyclonal population of CD8+ T cells readily mounted epitope-specific CTL responses against four out of five well-defined MHC class I-restricted peptides. In contrast to allospecific CTL, peptide-specific CTL from TAP1 -/- mice did not cross-react on cells expressing normal levels of H-2b class I. The present results demonstrate that a polyclonal CD8+ T cell repertoire, displaying both diversity and peptide specificity, is positively selected in mice devoid of a functional peptide transporter. These observations imply that TAP-dependent peptides are not absolutely required for positive selection of a functionally diverse repertoire of CD8+ T cells.
H2-M is a nonconventional major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecule that has been implicated in the loading of peptides onto conventional class II molecules. We generated mice with a targeted mutation in the H2-Ma gene, which encodes a subunit for H2-M. Although the mutant mice express normal class II cell surface levels, these are structurally distinct from the compact SDS-resistant complexes expressed by wild-type cells and are predominantly bound by class II-associated invariant chain peptides (CLIPs). Cells from these animals are unable to present intact protein antigens to class II-restricted T cells and show reduced capacity to present exogenous peptides. Numbers of mature CD4+ T lymphocytes in mutant mice are reduced 3- to 4-fold and exhibit altered reactivities. Overall, this phenotype establishes an important role for H2-M in regulating MHC class II function in vivo and supports the notion that self-peptides contribute to the specificity of T cell positive selection.
MHC class I molecules present peptides generated by processing of endogenously synthesized proteins to CD8+ T lymphocytes. Recently, large proteolytic complexes, termed proteasomes, were implicated in antigen processing. Two proteasomal subunits, LMP2 and LMP7, are encoded within the MHC class II region, but their precise role in antigen processing is unknown. We have generated mice that harbor a disruption in their LMP2 gene. Proteasomes purified from spleen and liver of these mutant mice exhibit altered peptidase activities, and antigen-presenting cells showed reduced capacity to stimulate a T cell hybridoma specific for H-2Db plus a nucleoprotein epitope of an influenza A virus. The mutant mice have reduced (60%-70% of wild type) levels of CD8+ T lymphocytes and generate 5- to 6-fold fewer influenza nucleoprotein-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte precursors. These findings indicate that LMP2 influences antigen processing.
We have bred to homozygosity gene disruptions for the transporter associated with antigen processing 1 (TAP1) and beta 2-microglobulin (beta 2m), each of which plays a distinct role in providing class I MHC subunits. Surface expression of H-2Kb or Db on cells derived from TAP1/beta 2m -/- mice was undetectable by immunofluorescence or immunoprecipitation, unlike the situation observed for TAP1 -/- and beta 2m -/- single mutant mice. Yet, TAP1/beta 2m -/- cells were able to elicit a CD8+ cytotoxic T cell (CTL) response in mice of different H-2 haplotypes and could be killed by anti-H-2b specific CTL. Furthermore, TAP1/beta 2m -/- skin grafts were rejected by bm1 mutant mice. This suggests that very low levels of conformed class I heavy chains can reach the cell surface even in the complete absence of TAP1 and beta 2m gene products, and that these molecules may select a functional CD8+ T cell repertoire. Indeed, CD4-CD8+ T cells were detected in TAP1/beta 2m -/- mice, but in numbers lower than in either of the single mutant mice. Nonetheless, it was possible to elicit a CD8+ allospecific and H-2b reactive CTL response in TAP1/beta 2m -/- mice. In line with this, TAP1/beta 2m -/- mice rapidly rejected TAP1/beta 2m +/- skin grafts. Our results suggest that some MHC class I heavy chains in TAP1/beta 2m -/- cells can reach the cell surface in a form that allows recognition by allospecific CTL and positive selection of CD8+ T cells.