CD6 modulates thymocyte selection and peripheral T cell Homeostasis

Orta-Mascar et al., 2016. Journal of Experimental Medicine. 213(8): 1387-1397.

BACKGROUND: The CD6 glycoprotein is a lymphocyte surface receptor putatively involved in T cell development and activation. CD6 facilitates adhesion between T cells and antigen-presenting cells through its interaction with CD166/ALC AM (activated leukocyte cell adhesion molecule), and physically associates with the T cell receptor (TCR) at the center of the immunological synapse. However, its precise role during thymocyte development and peripheral T cell immune responses remains to be defined. Here, we analyze the in vivo consequences of CD6 deficiency. CD6−/− thymi showed a reduction in both CD4+ and CD8+ single-positive subsets, and double-positive thymocytes exhibited increased Ca2+ mobilization to TCR cross-linking in vitro. Bone marrow chimera experiments revealed a T cell–autonomous selective disadvantage of CD6−/− T cells during development. The analysis of TCR-transgenic mice (OT-I and Marilyn) confirmed that abnormal T cell selection events occur in the absence of CD6. CD6−/− mice displayed increased frequencies of antigen-experienced peripheral T cells generated under certain levels of TCR signal strength or co-stimulation, such as effector/memory (CD4+TEM and CD8+TCM) and regulatory (Treg) T cells. The suppressive activity of CD6−/− Treg cells was diminished, and CD6−/− mice presented an exacerbated autoimmune response to collagen. Collectively, these data indicate that CD6 modulates the threshold for thymocyte selection and the generation and/or function of several peripheral T cell subpopulations, including Treg cells.