Changes in gene expression are required for the T cell to gain full proliferative competence and to produce effector cytokines. Three transcription factors in particular have been found to play a key role in TCR-stimulated changes in gene expression, namely NF-kB, NFAT and AP-1.
A key step in NF-kB activation is the stimulation and translocation of PKC theta. The critical element that effects PKC theta activation is PI3K. This enzyme complex translocates to the plasma membrane by interacting with phospho-tyrosines on CD28 via its two SH2 domains located in p85 subunit. The p110 subunit of PI3K phosphorylates the inositol ring of PIP2 to generate PIP3 (steps 17-18). PIP3 may also be dephosphorylated by the phosphatase SHIP to generate PI-3,4-P2.
PIP3 and PI-3,4-P2 acts as binding sites to the PH domain of PKB/Akt and PDK1 (steps 19, 21 and 22). PKB is activated in response to PI3K stimulation by PDK1 (step 23). PDK1 has an essential role in regulating the activation of PKC theta and recruitment of CBM complex to the immune synapse. PKC theta is a member of novel class (DAG dependent, Ca++ independent) of PKC and the only member known to translocate to this synapse. Prior to TCR stimulation PKC theta exists in an inactive closed conformation. Upon release of DAG, it binds to PKC theta via the C1 domain and undergoes phosphorylation on tyrosine 90 by Lck to attain an open conformation. PKC theta is further phosphorylated by PDK1 on threonine 538. This step is critical for PKC activity (steps 24-26).
CARMA1 translocates to the plasma membrane following the interaction of its SH3 domain with the 'PxxP' motif on PDK1. CARMA1 is phosphorylated by PKC-theta on residue S552, leading to the oligomerization of CARMA1. This complex acts as a scaffold, recruiting Bcl10 to the synapse by interacting with their CARD domains.
Bcl10 undergoes phosphorylation mediated by the enzyme RIP2. Activated Bcl10 then mediates the ubiquitination of NEMO by recruiting MALT1 and TRAF6. MALT1 binds to Bcl10 with its Ig-like domains and undergoes oligomerization. TRAF6 binds to the oligomerized MALT1 and also undergoes oligomerization.
Oligomerized TRAF6 acts as a ubiquitin-protein ligase, catalyzing auto-K63-linked polyubiquitination (steps 27-33). This K-63 ubiquitinated TRAF6 activates TAK1 kinase bound to TAB2 and also ubiquitinates NEMO/IKK-gamma in the IKK complex. TAK1 undergoes autophosphorylation on residues T184 and T187 and gets activated. Activated TAK1 kinase phosphorylates IKK-beta on residues S177 and S181 in the activation loop and activates the IKK kinase activity. IKK-beta phosphorylates the IkB-alpha bound to the NF-kB heterodimer, on residues S19 and S23 and directs IkB-beta to 26S proteasome degradation (step 34-38 & 40).
The NF-kB heterodimer with a free NTS sequence finally migrates to the nucleus to regulate gene transcription (step 39).