The β-catenin/Wnt signaling pathway plays an important role in all stages of T cell development. Nemo-like kinase (NLK) is an evolutionary conserved serine/threonine kinase and a negative regulator of the Wnt signaling pathway. NLK can directly phosphorylate histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1), as well as T cell factor/lymphoid enhancer-binding factor (TCF/LEF), causing subsequent repression of target gene transcription. By engineering mice lacking NLK in early stages of T cell development, we set out to characterize the role NLK plays in T cell development and found that deletion of NLK does not affect mouse health or lymphoid tissue development. Instead, these mice harbored a reduced number of single-positive (SP) CD8+ thymocytes without any defects in the SP CD4+ thymocyte population. The decrease in SP CD8+ thymocytes was not caused by a block in differentiation from double-positive CD4+CD8+ cells. Neither TCR signaling nor activation was altered in the absence of NLK. Instead, we observed a significant increase in cell death and reduced phosphorylation of LEF1 as well as HDAC1 among NLK-deleted SP CD8+ cells. Thus, NLK seems to play an important role in the survival of CD8+ thymocytes. Our data provide evidence for a new function for NLK with regard to its involvement in T cell development and supporting survival of SP CD8+ thymocytes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1830-1841
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Immunology in the medical area


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