Sialylation regulates peripheral tolerance in CD4+ T cells

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Decreased binding by the 6C10 auto-antibody serves as a unique marker for CD4+ T cell unresponsiveness after the induction of T cell tolerance in Vβ8.1 TCR transgenic mice. We further define the nature of the epitope recognized by the 6C10 antibody to be a subset of Thy-1 bearing incompletely sialylated N-linked glycans, and furthermore, we demonstrate that tolerant CD4+ T cells have an increased degree of cell-surface sialylation. To test the significance of the altered glycosylation state identified by the 6C10 auto-antibody in the tolerant CD4+ T cell population, surface sialic acid was cleaved enzymatically. Treatment of purified peripheral CD4+ T cells with Vibrio cholerae sialidase (VCS) leads to increased 6C10 binding, significantly enhances proliferation in the tolerant CD4+ population and corrects defects in phosphotyrosine signaling observed in the tolerant CD4+ T cell. Furthermore, in vivo administration of VCS enhances proliferation in both tolerant and naive CD4+ T cell subsets. These studies suggest that sialylation of glycoproteins on the surface of the CD4+ T cell contributes to the regulation of T cell responsiveness in the tolerant state.

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