J Biol Chem 2010 Apr 2;285(14):10969-81. Epub 2010 Fe
Dagger, SA; Jansen, ES; Koentgen, F; Langdon, WY; Scott, CL; Steer, JH; Thien, CB
School of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Western Australia, Crawley 6009,Western Australia.
The ability of thymocytes to assess T cell receptor (TCR) signaling strength and initiate the appropriate downstream response is crucial for determining their fate. We have previously shown that a c-Cbl RING finger mutant knock-in mouse, in which the E3 ubiquitin ligase activity of c-Cbl is inactivated, is highly sensitive to TCR-induced death signals that cause thymic deletion. This high intensity signal involves the enhanced tyrosine phosphorylation of the mutant c-Cbl protein promoting a marked increase in the activation of Akt. Here we show that this high intensity signal in c-Cbl RING finger mutant thymocytes also promotes the enhanced induction of two mediators of TCR-directed thymocyte apoptosis, Nur77 and the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family member, Bim. In contrast, a knock-in mouse harboring a mutation at Tyr-737, the site in c-Cbl that activates phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase, shows reduced TCR-mediated responses including suppression of Akt activation, a reduced induction of Nur77 and Bim, and greater resistance to thymocyte death. These findings identify tyrosine-phosphorylated c-Cbl as a critical sensor of TCR signal strength that regulates the engagement of death-promoting signals.