Recently, a severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome with a deficiency of CD8+ peripheral T cells and a TCR signal transduction defect in peripheral CD4+ T cells was associated with mutations in ZAP-70. Since TCR signaling is required in developmental decisions resulting in mature CD4 (and CD8) T cells, the presence of peripheral CD4+ T cells expressing TCRs incapable of signaling in these patients is paradoxical. Here, we show that the TCRs on thymocytes, but not peripheral T cells, from a ZAP-70-deficient patient are capable of signaling. Moreover, the TCR on a thymocyte line derived from this patient can signal, and the homologous kinase Syk is present at high levels and is tyrosine phosphorylated after TCR stimulation. Thus, Syk may compensate for the loss of ZAP-70 and account for the thymic selection of at least a subset of T cells (CD4+) in ZAP-70-deficient patients.

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