Engagement of the T cell receptor for antigen activates phospholipase C resulting in an increase in intracellular free calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i) and activation of protein kinase C (PKC). Increased [Ca2+]i activates Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent kinases including the multifunctional Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaM-K II), as well as calcineurin, a type 2B protein phosphatase. Recent studies have identified calcineurin as a key enzyme for interleukin (IL)-2 and IL-4 promoter activation. However, the role of CaM-K II remains unknown. We have used mutants of these kinases and phosphatases (gamma B*CaM-K and delta CaM-AI, respectively) to explore their relative role in cytokine gene transcription and their interactions with PKC-dependent signaling systems. gamma B*CaM-K and delta CaM-AI, known to exhibit constitutive Ca(2+)-independent activity, were cotransfected (alone or in combination) in Jurkat T cells with a plasmid containing the intact IL-2 promoter driving the expression of the chloramphenicol acetyltransferase reporter gene. Cotransfection of gamma B*CaM-K with the IL-2 promoter construct downregulated its transcription in response to stimulation with ionomycin and phorbol myristate acetate (PMA). The inhibitory effect of CaM-K II on IL-2 promoter was associated with decreased transcription of its AP-1 and NF-AT transactivating pathways. Under the same conditions, delta CaM-AI superinduced IL-2 promoter activity (approximately twofold increase). When both mutants were used in combination, gamma B*CaM-K inhibited the induction of the IL-2 promoter by delta CaM-AI. Similar results were obtained when a construct containing the IL-4 promoter also was used. gamma B*CaM-K also downregulated the activation of AP-1 in response to transfection with a constitutively active mutant of PKC or stimulation with PMA. These results suggest that CaM-K II may exert negative influences on cytokine gene transcription in human T cells, and provide preliminary evidence for negative cross-talk with the calcineurin- and PKC-dependent signaling systems.

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