Cross-linking of FcγRIIIA (CD16) receptor on natural killer (NK) cells induces receptor-associated tyrosine kinase activation and tyrosine phosphorylation of numerous intracellular proteins, including phospholipase C (PLC)-γ1, PLC-γ2 and the associated ζ chain. Here we report that Vav, a proto-oncogene, also became tyrosine phosphorylated upon stimulation of CD16 in interleukin 2-activated NK cells (LAK-NK) as well as in an NK cell line, NK3.3. In addition, we observed that in LAK-NK cells, Vav was associated with a 70 kDa protein that also became tyrosine phosphorylated upon CD16 cross-linking. The association of this 70 kDa protein with Vav was disrupted by ionic detergent treatment. Tyrosine phosphorylation of Vav was inhibited by herbimycin A, a specific tyrosine kinase inhibitor. In vitro kinase assays with Vav immunoprecipitates derived from NK3.3 cells or LAK-NK cells resulted in the appearance of a phosphorylated 58 kDa protein, suggesting the presence of a kinase within the Vav immunoprecipitates. Cross-linking of CD16 did not enhance this Vav-associated kinase activity. Phosphoamino acid analysis of the 58 kDa protein revealed that it was phosphorylated only on serine and threonine residues, indicating that an unidentified serine/threonine kinase is constitutively associated with Vav. These observations suggest that the downstream signalling events regulated by Vav and its associated proteins are complex involving both tyrosine kinases as well as the yet unidentified serine/threonine kinase in NK cells.

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