Immature double-positive (DP) thymocytes mature into CD4+CD8- cells in response to coengagement of TCR with any of a variety of cell surface "coinducer" receptors, including CD2. In contrast, DP thymocytes are signaled to undergo apoptosis by coengagement of TCR with CD28 costimulatory receptors, but the molecular basis for DP thymocyte apoptosis by TCR plus CD28 coengagement is not known. In the present study, we report that TCR plus CD28 coengagement does not invariably induce DP thymocyte apoptosis but, depending on the intensity of CD28 costimulation, can induce DP thymocyte maturation. We demonstrate that distinct but interacting signal transduction pathways mediate DP thymocyte maturation signals and DP thymocyte apoptotic signals. Specifically, DP maturation signals are transduced by the extracellular signal-related kinase (ERK)/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway and up-regulate expression of the antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2. In contrast, the apoptotic response stimulated by CD28 costimulatory signals is mediated by ERK/MAPK-independent pathways. Importantly, when TCR-activated thymocytes are simultaneously coengaged by both CD28 and CD2 receptors, CD28 signals can inhibit ERK/MAPK-dependent Bcl-2 protein up-regulation. Thus, there is cross-talk between the signal transduction pathways that transduce apoptotic and maturation responses, enabling CD28-initiated signal transduction pathways to both stimulate DP thymocyte apoptosis and also negatively regulate maturation responses initiated by TCR plus CD2 coengagement.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy