The Journal of experimental medicine

NKAP is required for T cell maturation and acquisition of functional competency.

PMID 21624937


Newly generated T cells are unable to respond to antigen/MHC. Rather, post-selection single-positive thymocytes must undergo T cell maturation to gain functional competency and enter the long-lived naive peripheral T cell pool. This process is poorly understood, as no gene specifically required for T cell maturation has been identified. Here, we demonstrate that loss of the transcriptional repressor NKAP results in a complete block in T cell maturation. In CD4-cre NKAP conditional knockout mice, thymic development including positive selection occurs normally, but there is a cell-intrinsic defect in the peripheral T cell pool. All peripheral naive CD4-cre NKAP conditional knockout T cells were found to be functionally immature recent thymic emigrants. This defect is not simply in cell survival, as the T cell maturation defect was not rescued by a Bcl-2 transgene. Thus, NKAP is required for T cell maturation and the acquisition of functional competency.