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Cell intrinsic role of NF-B-inducing kinase in regulating T cell-mediated immune and autoimmune responses.

Li, Y;Wang, H;Zhou, X;Xie, X;Chen, X;Jie, Z;Zou, Q;Hu, H;Zhu, L;Cheng, X;Brightbill, HD;Wu, LC;Wang, L;Sun, SC;

NF-B inducing kinase (NIK) is a central component of the noncanonical NF-B signaling pathway. Although NIK has been extensively studied for its function in the regulation of lymphoid organ development and B-cell maturation, the role of NIK in regulating T cell functions remains unclear and controversial. Using T cell-conditional NIK knockout mice, we here demonstrate that although NIK is dispensable for thymocyte development, it has a cell-intrinsic role in regulating the homeostasis and function of peripheral T cells. T cell-specific NIK ablation reduced the frequency of effector/memory-like T cells and impaired T cell responses to bacterial infection. The T cell-conditional NIK knockout mice were also defective in generation of inflammatory T cells and refractory to the induction of a T cell-dependent autoimmune disease, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Our data suggest a crucial role for NIK in mediating the generation of effector T cells and their recall responses to antigens. Together, these findings establish NIK as a cell-intrinsic mediator of T cell functions in both immune and autoimmune responses.