Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

Pak2 Links TCR Signaling Strength to the Development of Regulatory T Cells and Maintains Peripheral Tolerance.

PMID 26157175


Although significant effort has been devoted to understanding the thymic development of Foxp3(+) regulatory T cells (Tregs), the precise signaling pathways that govern their lineage commitment still remain enigmatic. Our findings show a novel role for the actin cytoskeletal remodeling protein, p21-activated kinase 2 (Pak2), in Treg development and homeostasis. The absence of Pak2 in T cells resulted in a marked reduction in both thymus- and peripherally derived Tregs, accompanied by the development of spontaneous colitis in Pak2-deficient mice. Additionally, Pak2 was required for the proper differentiation of in vitro-induced Tregs as well as maintenance of Tregs. Interestingly, Pak2 was necessary for generating the high-affinity TCR- and IL-2-mediated signals that are required by developing Tregs for their lineage commitment. These findings provide novel insight into how developing thymocytes translate lineage-specific high-affinity TCR signals to adopt the Treg fate, and they further posit Pak2 as an essential regulator for this process.