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The kinase GLK controls autoimmunity and NF-κB signaling by activating the kinase PKC-θ in T cells


Protein kinase C-θ (PKC-θ) is required for activation of the transcription factor NF-κB induced by signaling via the T cell antigen receptor (TCR); however, the direct activator of PKC-θ is unknown. We report that the kinase GLK (MAP4K3) directly activated PKC-θ during TCR signaling. TCR signaling activated GLK by inducing its direct interaction with the upstream adaptor SLP-76. GLK-deficient mice had impaired immune responses and were resistant to experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Consistent with that, people with systemic lupus erythematosus had considerable enhanced GLK expression and activation of PKC-θ and the kinase IKK in T cells, and the frequency of GLK-overexpressing T cells was directly correlated with disease severity. Thus, GLK is a direct activator of PKC-θ, and activation of GLK–PKC-θ–IKK could be used as new diagnostic biomarkers and therapeutic targets for systemic lupus erythematosus.

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Figure 1: GLK directly interacts with and phosphorylates PKC-θ at Thr538.
Figure 2: SLP-76 is a direct upstream regulator of GLK.
Figure 3: GLK-deficient primary T cells are defective in PKC-θ–IKK activation and in proliferation.
Figure 4: In vivo T cell–dependent immune responses are impaired in GLK-deficient mice.
Figure 5: GLK expression and phosphorylation of PKC-θ at Thr538 are induced in T cells from people with SLE.


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We thank the Core Facilities of the National Health Research Institutes (Taiwan) for confocal microscopy. Supported by National Health Research Institutes of Taiwan (98A1-IMPP01-014 to T.-H.T.) and Taichung Veterans General Hospital of Taiwan (TCVGH-NHRI01 to J.-L.L.).

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Authors and Affiliations



H.-C.C. designed and did experiments, analyzed and interpreted data and wrote the manuscript; J.-L.L. and D.-Y.C. provided samples from affected people, analyzed clinical data and coordinated clinical research; C.-Y.Y., J.-P.L. and P.-E.L. did experiments; Y.-M.C. provided samples from affected people and analyzed clinical data; C.-Y.H. assisted in generation of the GLK-deficient mice; X.W. assisted in the experimental design and manuscript writing; and T.-H.T. conceived of the study, supervised experiments and composed the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Tse-Hua Tan.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Chuang, HC., Lan, JL., Chen, DY. et al. The kinase GLK controls autoimmunity and NF-κB signaling by activating the kinase PKC-θ in T cells. Nat Immunol 12, 1113–1118 (2011).

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