Optimal T cell activation requires crosslinking of the T cell receptor (TCR) concurrently with an accessory receptor, most efficiently CD28. Crosslinking of CD28 leads to increased interleukin 2 (IL2) production, inhibition of anergy and prevention of programmed cell death. Crosslinking of CD28 leads to rapid increases in tyrosine phosphorylation of specific intracellular substrates including CD28 itself. Since CD28 does not encode an intrinsic tyrosine kinase domain, CD28 must activate an intracellular tyrosine kinase(s). Indeed, crosslinking of CD28 increases the activity of the intracellular tyrosine kinases EMT/ITK and LCK. The phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) and GRB2 binding site in CD28 is dispensable for optimal IL2 production in Jurkat T cells. We demonstrate herein that murine Y170 (equivalent to human Y173) in CD28 is also dispensable for activation of the SRC family tyrosine kinase LCK and the TEC family tyrosine kinase EMT/ITK. In contrast, the distal three tyrosines in CD28 are required for optimal IL2 production as well as for optimal activation of the LCK and EMT/ITK tyrosine kinases. The distal three tyrosines of CD28, however, are not required for recruitment of PI3K to CD28. Furthermore, PI3K is recruited to CD28 in JCaM1 cells which lack LCK and in which EMT/ITK is not activated by ligation of CD28. Thus optimal activation of LCK or EMT/ITK is not obligatory for recruitment of PI3K to CD28 and thus is also not required for tyrosine phosphorylation of the YMNM motif in CD28. Taken together the data indicate that the distal three tyrosines in CD28 are integral to the activation of LCK and EMT/ITK and for subsequent IL2 production.

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