Tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR)-associated factor 3 (TRAF3) plays context-specific roles in multiple receptor-mediated signaling pathways in different cell types. Mice lacking TRAF3 in T cells display defective T-cell mediated immune responses to immunization and infection and demonstrate defective early signaling via the TCR complex. However, the role of TRAF3 in the function of GITR/TNFRSF18, an important costimulatory member of the TNFR superfamily, is unclear. Here we investigated the impact of T cell TRAF3 status on both GITR expression and activation of specific kinases in the GITR signaling pathway in T cells. Our results indicate that TRAF3 negatively regulates GITR functions in several ways. First, expression of GITR protein was elevated in TRAF3-deficient T cells, resulting from both transcriptional and post-translational regulation that led to greater GITR transcript levels, as well as enhanced GITR protein stability. TRAF3 associated with T cell GITR in a manner dependent upon GITR ligation. TRAF3 also inhibited several events of the GITR mediated early signaling cascade, in a manner independent of recruitment of phosphatases, a mechanism by which TRAF3 inhibits signaling through several other cytokine receptors. These results add new information to our understanding of GITR signaling and function in T cells, which is relevant to the potential use of GITR to enhance immune therapies.
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