MetadataShow full item record
AbstractT cells are critical organizers of the immune response and rigid control over their activation is necessary for balancing host defense and immunopathology. It takes 3 signals provided by dendritic cells (DC) to fully activate a T cell response – T cell receptor (TCR) engagement of antigen on MHC (Signal 1), co-stimulatory signals (Signal 2) and cytokines (Signal 3). Yet, even before activation T cells are typically exposed to a universe of chemicals (a “chemiome”) including drugs, metabolites, hormones etc. which are not typically ascribed an immunological role. In this thesis, we hypothesized that members of this non-immune chemiome acting on T cells, prior to antigen encounter, flavor specific signaling pathways to differentially influence subsequent T cell activation and fate. Unraveling these signals, which we termed “Signal 0”, could help us understand and manipulate tissue and time specific flavoring of immunity. In this thesis we first developed a pharmacological model for signal 0, by treating T cells with drugs that activate only subsets of the TCR-signaling network prior to full antigen exposure. We found that pharmacological pre-activation of the PKCƟ/ERK pathways modulates long time survival of T cells without changing proliferation or cytokine production. Next, we examined receptors for the non-immune chemiome that resting T cells express and identified neurotransmitter receptors (NR) as a major family. All T cells expressed a core NR signature, but very few NR were also modulated in a T cell lineage-specific fashion. Of these, we focused on VPAC1, the receptor for vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP). We found that VIP signaling attenuates ERK phosphorylation, but paradoxically drives increased differentiation towards IL-17 and IL-22 secretion. In addition ERK signaling induced by drugs (phorbol esters) versus the TCR followed differential kinetics and recruited non-overlapping negative feedback mechanisms, suggesting that even the same branch of TCR signaling is subject to different localization and temporal controls. Taken together, our data suggest that the branches of the TCR-signaling network integrate pre-existing signals (Signal 0) into the activation program of T cells, allowing localized cues, including neurotransmitter levels, to modify the long-term trajectory of the immune response.
DescriptionMolecular Microbiology and Immunology
University of Maryland, Baltimore