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The protooncogene Vav functions as a GDP/GTP exchange factor (GEF) for Rho-like small GTPases involved in cytoskeletal reorganization and cytokine production in T cells. Gene-targeted mice lacking Vav have a severe defect in positive and negative selection of T cell antigen receptor transgenic thymocytes in vivo, and vav−/− thymocytes are completely resistant to peptide-specific and anti-CD3/anti-CD28–mediated apoptosis. Vav acts upstream of mitochondrial pore opening and caspase activation. Biochemically, Vav regulates peptide-specific Ca2+ mobilization and actin polymerization. Peptide-specific cell death was blocked both by cytochalasin D inhibition of actin polymerization and by inhibition of protein kinase C (PKC). Activation of PKC with phorbol ester restored peptide-specific apoptosis in vav−/− thymocytes. Vav was found to bind constitutively to PKC-θ in thymocytes. Our results indicate that peptide-triggered thymocyte apoptosis is mediated via Vav activation, changes in the actin cytoskeleton, and subsequent activation of a PKC isoform.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Experimental Medicine


Rockefeller University Press

Publication Date





2099 - 2111