Regulation of NKT cell development by SAP, the protein defective in XLP

Kim E. Nichols*, Jamie Hom, Shun You Gong, Arupa Ganguly, Cindy S. Ma, Jennifer L. Cannons, Stuart G. Tangye, Pamela L. Schwartzberg, Gary A. Koretzky, Paul L. Stein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

319 Scopus citations


The adaptor molecule SAP is expressed in T lymphocytes and natural killer (NK) cells, where it regulates cytokine production and cytotoxicity 1-3. Here, we show that SAP, encoded by the SH2D1A gene locus, also has a crucial role during the development of NKT cells, a lymphocyte subset with immunoregulatory functions in response to infection, cancer and autoimmune disease4. Following stimulation with the NKT cell-specific agonist α-galactosyl ceramide (αGC), Sh2d1a-/- splenocytes did not produce cytokines or activate other lymphoid lineages in an NKT cell-dependent manner. While evaluating the abnormalities in αGC-induced immune responses, we observed that Sh2d1a-/- animals lacked NKT cells in the thymus and peripheral organs. The defect in NKT cell ontogeny was hematopoietic cell autonomous and could be rescued by reconstitution of SAP expression within Sh2d1a-/- bone marrow cells. Seventeen individuals with X-linked lymphoproliferative disease (XLP), who harbored germline mutations in SH2D1A, also lacked NKT cells. Furthermore, a female XLP carrier showed completely skewed X chromosome inactivation within NKT cells, but not T or B cells. Thus, SAP is a crucial regulator of NKT cell ontogeny in humans and in mice. The absence of NKT cells may contribute to the phenotypes of SAP deficiency, including abnormal antiviral and antitumor immunity and hypogammaglobulinemia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)340-345
Number of pages6
JournalNature Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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