The early growth response (Egr) family of transcriptional regulators consists of four proteins that share highly conserved DNA-binding domains. In many eel! types, they are coexpressed and appear to have cooperative roles in regulating gene expression during growth and differentiation. Three Egr proteins, Egr1, Egr2, and Egr3, are induced during thymocyte differentiation in response to pre-TCR signaling, suggesting they may be critical for some aspects of pre-TCR-mediated differentiation. Indeed, enforced expression of Egr proteins in developing thymocytes can recapitulate some aspects of pre-TCR signaling, but the mechanisms by which they contribute to β-selection are still poorly understood. Egr3 stimulates proliferation of β-selected thymocytes, and Egr3-deficient mice have hypocellular thymuses, defects in proliferation, and impaired progression from double-negative 3 to double-negative 4. Surprisingly, Egr1-deficient mice exhibit normal β-selection, indicating that the functions of Egr1 during β-selection are likely compensated by other Egr proteins. In this study, we show that mice lacking both Egr1 and Egr3 exhibit a more severe thymic atrophy and impairment of thymocyte differentiation than mice lacking either Egr1 or Egr3. This is due to a proliferation defect and cell-autonomous increase in apoptosis, indicating that Egr1 and Egr3 cooperate to promote thymocyte survival. Microarray analysis of deregulated gene expression in immature thymocytes lacking both Egr1 and Egr3 revealed a previously unknown role for Egr proteins in the maintenance of cellular metabolism, providing new insight into the function of these molecules during T cell development.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy