Although c-FLIP has been identified as an important player in the extrinsic (death receptor-induced) apoptosis pathway, its endogenous function in mature T lymphocytes remains undefined. c-FLIP may inhibit or promote T cell death as previous data demonstrate that the c-FLIPL isoform can promote or inhibit caspase 8 activation while the c-FLIPS isoform promotes or inhibits T cell death when overexpressed. Although the c-FLIPR isoform inhibits cell death in cell lines, its function in T cells remains unknown. To investigate the function of c-FLIP in mature T cells, we have generated several genetic mouse models with c-FLIP or its individual isoforms deleted in mature T cells. Surprisingly, we found that c-FLIP protects mature T cells not only from apoptosis induced by the death receptors Fas and TNFR but also from TCR-mediated and spontaneous apoptosis. Thus, c-FLIP plays an essential role in protecting mature T cells from a death signal induced through the TCR itself and is required for naive T cell survival. Our results demonstrate that c-FLIP functions beyond the extrinsic death pathway.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy