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USP16-mediated deubiquitination of calcineurin A controls peripheral T cell maintenance

Zhang, Y;Liu, RB;Cao, Q;Fan, KQ;Huang, LJ;Yu, JS;Gao, ZJ;Huang, T;Zhong, JY;Mao, XT;Wang, F;Xiao, P;Zhao, Y;Feng, XH;Li, YY;Jin, J;

Calcineurin acts as a calcium-activated phosphatase that dephosphorylates various substrates, including members of the nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) family, to trigger their nuclear translocation and transcriptional activity. However, the detailed mechanism regulating the recruitment of NFATs to calcineurin remains poorly understood. Here, we report that calcineurin A (CNA), encoded by PPP3CB or PPP3CC, is constitutively ubiquitinated on lysine 327, and this polyubiquitin chain is rapidly removed by ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal hydrolase 16 (USP16) in response to intracellular calcium stimulation. The K29-linked ubiquitination of CNA impairs NFAT recruitment and transcription of NFAT-targeted genes. USP16 deficiency prevents calcium-triggered deubiquitination of CNA in a manner consistent with defective maintenance and proliferation of peripheral T cells. T cell-specific USP16 knockout mice exhibit reduced severity of experimental autoimmune encephalitis and inflammatory bowel disease. Our data reveal the physiological function of CNA ubiquitination and its deubiquitinase USP16 in peripheral T cells. Notably, our results highlight a critical mechanism for the regulation of calcineurin activity and a novel immunosuppressive drug target for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.