Vav1 is a signal transducing protein required for T cell receptor (TCR) signals that drive positive and negative selection in the thymus. Furthermore, Vav1-deficient thymocytes show greatly reduced TCR-induced intracellular calcium flux. Using a novel genetic system which allows the study of signaling in highly enriched populations of CD4 + CD8 + double positive thymocytes, we have studied the mechanism by which Vav1 regulates TCR-induced calcium flux. We show that in Vav1-deficient double positive thymocytes, phosphorylation, and activation of phospholipase C-γ1 (PLCγ1) is defective. Furthermore, we demonstrate that Vav1 regulates PLCγ1 phosphorylation by at least two distinct pathways. First, in the absence of Vav1 the Tec-family kinases Itk and Tec are no longer activated, most likely as a result of a defect in phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) activation. Second, Vav1-deficient thymocytes show defective assembly of a signaling complex containing PLCγ1 and the adaptor molecule Src homology 2 domain–containing leukocyte phosphoprotein 76. We show that this latter function is independent of PI3K.
Glucocorticoids (GCs) affect peripheral immune responses by inhibiting T cell immunity at several stages of the activation cascade, causing impaired cytokine production and effector function. The recent demonstration that the thymic epithelium and possibly thymocytes themselves produce steroids suggests that endogenous GCs also play a role in the control of T cell development. As both peripheral responsiveness and thymic differentiation appear to be regulated by the quantity and quality of intracellular signals issued by antigen–major histocompatibility complex-engaged T cell receptor (TCR) complexes, we investigated the effects of GCs on the signaling properties of T cells stimulated by anti-CD3 monoclonal antibodies or agonist peptides. We demonstrate in this work that dexamethasone, a synthetic GC, inhibits the early signaling events initiated upon TCR ligation, such as tyrosine phosphorylation of several TCR-associated substrates including the ζ chain, the ZAP70 kinase, and the transmembrane adapter molecule linker for activation of T cells. Hypophosphorylation was not a consequence of reduced kinase activity of src protein tyrosine kinases, but was correlated with an altered- membrane compartmentalization of these molecules. These observations indicate that in addition to their well-described ability to interfere with the transcription of molecules involved in peripheral responses, GCs inhibit T cell activation by affecting the early phosphorylating events induced after TCR ligation.