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JNK is required for effector T-cell function but not for T-cell activation


The hallmark of T-cell activation is the production of interleukin 2 (IL-2). c-Jun amino-terminal kinase (JNK), a MAP kinase that phosphorylates c-Jun and other components of the AP-1 group of transcription factors1,2, has been implicated in the activation of IL-2 expression3,4. Previously, we found that T cells from mice deficient in the Jnk1 or Jnk2 gene can be activated and produce IL-2 normally, but are deficient in functional differentiation into Th1 or Th2 subsets5,6. However, studies of mice with compound mutations indicate that JNK1 and JNK2 are redundant during mouse development7. Here we use three new mouse models in which peripheral T cells completely lack JNK proteins or signalling, to test whether the JNK signalling pathway is crucial for IL-2 expression and T-cell activation. Unexpectedly, these T cells made more IL-2 and proliferated better than wild-type cells. However, production of effector T-cell cytokines did require JNK. Thus, JNK is necessary for T-cell differentiation but not for naive T-cell activation.

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Figure 1: Increased IL-2 production by T cells with defects in the JNK signalling pathway.
Figure 2: Identification and characterization of ES cells with disrupted Jnk1 and Jnk2 alleles.
Figure 3: Enhanced proliferation by dnJNK1+Jnk2-/-cells.
Figure 4: Increased IL-2 production and proliferation by Mkk7-/- Th cells.
Figure 5: Defective Th cell differentiation in the absence of JNK signalling.

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The authors thank D. Y. Loh and C. L. Stewart for providing reagents; L. Evangelisti, D. Butkus, C. Hughes and J. Stein for technical assistance; and F. Manzo for secretarial work. Supported by NIH grants and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. C.D. is a recipient of an Arthritis Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. C.D. and D.D.Y. were Associates, C.T. is an Associate, and R.J.D. and R.A.F. are Investigators of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

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Dong, C., Yang, D., Tournier, C. et al. JNK is required for effector T-cell function but not for T-cell activation . Nature 405, 91–94 (2000).

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