Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

Polymorphisms in the CD1d promoter that regulate CD1d gene expression are associated with impaired NKT cell development.

PMID 24307737


CD1d-restricted NKT cells comprise an innate-like T cell population that exerts significant influence over early events in the developing immune response. The frequency of NKT cells is highly variable in humans and in mice, but the basis for this variability remains unclear. In this study, we report a striking deficiency of type I NKT cells in the wild-derived inbred strains PWD/PhJ, SPRET/EiJ, and CAST/EiJ. Investigation of the underlying basis for the lack of type I NKT cells revealed that one strain, PWD/PhJ, exhibited a significant impairment in thymocyte and splenocyte CD1d gene and protein expression. Accordingly, both thymocytes and bone marrow-derived dendritic cells from PWD mice exhibited a significant impairment in the ability to present α-galactosylceramide to NKT cells. The impaired PWD CD1d gene expression was due to impaired CD1d promoter activity. Fine-mapping of the promoter activity revealed that two single nucleotide substitutions at positions -331 and -164 in the proximal promoter were each sufficient to account for the diminished PWD CD1d promoter activity. Examination of the strain distribution pattern of these polymorphisms revealed that, of 19 strains analyzed, only PWD and PWK mice possessed both CD1d promoter polymorphisms. A subsequent examination of the PWK strain revealed that it also exhibited impaired thymocyte CD1d expression and very low numbers of NKT cells. Taken together, these results provide new insight into the control of CD1d gene expression, and they have implications for the evolution of CD1d and type I NKT cells.