T lymphocytes express a range of tyrosine kinases that are involved in signalling processes driving cell activation, proliferation and differentation. Two tyrosine kinases expressed only in T cells, the Itk/Emt and Txk gene products, are members of the Tec family of kinases. The role of Tec kinases in cellular function is poorly understood, although a Tec kinase specific to B cells, Btk, is essential for B-cell development. To explore the contribution of the T-cell-specific Tec kinases to lymphocyte function, we have expressed human Txk in the baculovirus system and conducted the first characterization of its activity. We find that Txk exhibits a substrate preference in vitro quite distinct from that of the major T-cell kinases Lck and ZAP70, suggesting that Tec-family kinases might act on a distinct range of substrates. We also investigated the interactions of Txk with the cytoplasmic domains of the key signalling molecules CD3ζ, CD28 and CTLA4 and find that none of these are phosphorylated by Txk, nor are they ligands for the SH2 or SH3 domains of Txk. We conclude that it is unlikely that Txk has a role in the early signal transduction events associated with these key pathways controlling T-cell activation.

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Author notes

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Present address: University Hospital Leiden, Department of Immunohaematology and Bloodbank, Albinusdreef 2, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands.