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Nck adapter proteins: functional versatility in T cells

By Marcus Lettau, Jennifer Pieper and Ottmar Janssen


Nck is a ubiquitously expressed adapter protein that is almost exclusively built of one SH2 domain and three SH3 domains. The two isoproteins of Nck are functionally redundant in many aspects and differ in only few amino acids that are mostly located in the linker regions between the interaction modules. Nck proteins connect receptor and non-receptor tyrosine kinases to the machinery of actin reorganisation. Thereby, Nck regulates activation-dependent processes during cell polarisation and migration and plays a crucial role in the signal transduction of a variety of receptors including for instance PDGF-, HGF-, VEGF- and Ephrin receptors. In most cases, the SH2 domain mediates binding to the phosphorylated receptor or associated phosphoproteins, while SH3 domain interactions lead to the formation of larger protein complexes. In T lymphocytes, Nck plays a pivotal role in the T cell receptor (TCR)-induced reorganisation of the actin cytoskeleton and the formation of the immunological synapse. However, in this context, two different mechanisms and adapter complexes are discussed. In the first scenario, dependent on an activation-induced conformational change in the CD3ε subunits, a direct binding of Nck to components of the TCR/CD3 complex was shown. In the second scenario, Nck is recruited to the TCR complex via phosphorylated Slp76, another central constituent of the membrane proximal activation complex. Over the past years, a large number of putative Nck interactors have been identified in different cellular systems that point to diverse additional functions of the adapter protein, e.g. in the control of gene expression and proliferation

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