Azathioprine Suppresses Ezrin-Radixin-Moesin-Dependent T Cell-APC Conjugation through Inhibition of Vav Guanosine Exchange Activity on Rac Proteins

Poppe D, Tiede I, Fritz G, Becker C, Bartsch B, Wirtz S, Strand D, Tanaka S, Galle PR, Bustelo XR and Neurath MF
Source: J Immunol
Publication Date: (2006)
Issue: 176(1): 640-651
Research Area:
Immunotherapy / Hematology
Cells used in publication:
T cell, human peripheral blood unstim.
Species: human
Tissue Origin: blood
T cell, human stim.
Species: human
Tissue Origin: blood
Nucleofector® I/II/2b
We have shown recently that the azathioprine metabolite 6-Thio-GTP causes immunosuppression by blockade of GTPase activation in T lymphocytes. In the present study, we describe a new molecular mechanism by which 6-Thio-GTP blocks GTPase activation. Although 6-Thio-GTP could bind to various small GTPases, it specifically blocked activation of Rac1 and Rac2 but not of closely related Rho family members such as Cdc42 and RhoA in primary T cells upon stimulation with alphaCD28 or fibronectin. Binding of 6-Thio-GTP to Rac1 did not suppress Rac effector coupling directly but blocked Vav1 exchange activity upon 6-Thio-GTP hydrolysis, suggesting that 6-Thio-GTP loading leads to accumulation of 6-Thio-GDP-loaded, inactive Rac proteins over time by inhibiting Vav activity. In the absence of apoptosis, blockade of Vav-mediated Rac1 activation led to a blockade of ezrin-radixin-moesin dephosphorylation in primary T cells and suppression of T cell-APC conjugation. Azathioprine-generated 6-Thio-GTP thus prevents the development of an effective immune response via blockade of Vav activity on Rac proteins. These findings provide novel insights into the immunosuppressive effects of azathioprine and suggest that antagonists of the Vav-Rac signaling pathway may be useful for suppression of T cell-dependent pathogenic immune responses.