RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) mutations underlying autosomal dominant hyper-IgE syndrome impair human CD8(+) T-cell memory formation and function.

BACKGROUND: The capacity of CD8(+) T cells to control infections and mediate antitumor immunity requires the development and survival of effector and memory cells. IL-21 has emerged as a potent inducer of CD8(+) T-cell effector function and memory development in mouse models of infectious disease. However, the role of IL-21 and associated signaling pathways in protective CD8(+) T-cell immunity in human subjects is unknown.

OBJECTIVE: We sought to determine which signaling pathways mediate the effects of IL-21 on human CD8(+) T cells and whether defects in these pathways contribute to disease pathogenesis in patients with primary immunodeficiencies caused by mutations in components of the IL-21 signaling cascade.

METHODS: Human primary immunodeficiencies resulting from monogenic mutations provide a unique opportunity to assess the requirement for particular molecules in regulating human lymphocyte function. Lymphocytes from patients with loss-of-function mutations in signal transducer and activator of transcription 1 (STAT1), STAT3, or IL-21 receptor (IL21R) were used to assess the respective roles of these genes in human CD8(+) T-cell differentiation in vivo and in vitro.

RESULTS: Mutations in STAT3 and IL21R, but not STAT1, led to a decrease in multiple memory CD8(+) T-cell subsets in vivo, indicating that STAT3 signaling, possibly downstream of IL-21R, regulates the memory cell pool. Furthermore, STAT3 was important for inducing the lytic machinery in IL-21-stimulated naive CD8(+) T cells. However, this defect was overcome by T-cell receptor engagement.

CONCLUSION: The IL-21R/STAT3 pathway is required for many aspects of human CD8(+) T-cell behavior but in some cases can be compensated by other signals. This helps explain the relatively mild susceptibility to viral disease observed in STAT3- and IL-21R-deficient subjects.

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