Bim, the B cell lymphoma 2-interacting (Bcl2-interacting) mediator, maintains immunological tolerance by deleting autoreactive lymphocytes through apoptosis. We report here that Bim is also, paradoxically, required for the activation of autoreactive T cells. Deletion of Bim in hematopoietic cells rendered mice resistant to autoimmune encephalomyelitis and diabetes, and Bim-deficient T cells had diminished cytokine production. Upon T cell receptor activation, Bim-deficient T cells exhibited severe defects in both calcium release and dephosphorylation of nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) but maintained normal levels of activation of NF-κB and MAPKs. The defective calcium signaling in Bim-deficient T cells was associated with a significant increase in the formation of an inhibitory complex containing Bcl2 and the inositol triphosphate receptor (IP3R). Thus, in addition to mediating the death of autoreactive T cells, Bim also controlled T cell activation through the IP3R/calcium/NFAT pathway. These results indicate that a single protein is used to control both the activation and apoptosis of autoreactive T cells and may explain why Bim-deficient mice do not reject their own organs despite lacking thymic negative selection.
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