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Calcium signals regulate the functional differentiation of thymic iNKT cells

  • Zhao, Meng
  • Quintana, Ariel
  • Zhang, Chen
  • Andreyev, Alexander Y
  • Kiosses, William
  • Kuwana, Tomomi
  • Murphy, Anne
  • Hogan, Patrick G
  • Kronenberg, Mitchell
Publication Date
Aug 16, 2021
eScholarship - University of California
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How natural or innate-like lymphocytes generate the capacity to produce IL-4 and other cytokines characteristic of type 2 immunity remains unknown. Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells differentiate in the thymus into NKT1, NKT2, and NKT17 subsets, similar to mature, peripheral CD4+ T helper cells. The mechanism for this differentiation was not fully understood. Here, we show that NKT2 cells required higher and prolonged calcium (Ca2+ ) signals and continuing activity of the calcium release-activated calcium (CRAC) channel, than their NKT1 counterparts. The sustained Ca2+ entry via CRAC pathway in NKT2 cells was apparently mediated by ORAI and controlled in part by the large mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake. Unique properties of mitochondria in NKT2 cells, including high activity of oxidative phosphorylation, may regulate mitochondrial Ca2+ buffering in NKT2 cells. In addition, the low Ca2+ extrusion rate may also contribute to the higher Ca2+ level in NKT2 cells. Altogether, we identified ORAI-dependent Ca2+ signaling connected with mitochondria and cellular metabolism, as a central regulatory pathway for the differentiation of NKT2 cells.

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