Possible mechanism for the alpha subunit of the interleukin-2 receptor (CD25) to influence interleukin-2 receptor signal transduction

Immunol Cell Biol. 2002 Aug;80(4):351-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1711.2002.01097.x.


The receptors for interleukin 2 (IL-2) and interleukin 15 (IL-15) in T cells share the IL-2R beta subunit (CD122) and gamma(C) subunit but have private alpha subunits. Despite utilizing the same receptor chains known to be necessary and sufficient to transduce IL-2 signals the two cytokines manifest different cellular effects. It is commonly held that the alpha subunit of the IL-2R (CD25) is involved solely in the generation of a high affinity receptor complex. This is questioned by the development of autoimmune diseases in instances where the expression of CD25 is absent. The timely expression of CD25 in the thymus has been linked with clonal deletion. Evidence from peripheral T cells indicates that survival signals arising from the intermediate affinity IL-2R (lacking CD25) do not require the activation of Janus kinase 3 (Jak3) but do require the presence of the membrane proximal region of the gamma(C) chain. This particular signalling pathway is not observed in the high affinity receptor complex where Jak3 is activated. Recent data point to CD25 having a surface distribution consistent with it being localized within membrane microdomains. Here we suggest that in the absence of CD25 expression, IL-2R activation occurs within the soluble membrane fraction. This membrane environment and the absence of CD25 promotes Jak3 independent signal transduction and induction of antiapoptotic mechanisms. T cell antigen receptor (TCR) signalling leads to the induction of CD25 expression, which localizes to membrane microdomains. There is a dynamic pre-association of CD25 and CD122 leading to the loose association of the heterodimer with membrane microdomains. High affinity IL-2R signalling in the context of CD25 and the microdomain environment is characterized by Jak3 activation. The relative levels of high to intermediate affinity receptor signalling determines whether a cell proliferates or undergoes activation induced cell death dependent upon cell status.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Interleukin-15 / physiology
  • Interleukin-2 / physiology
  • Janus Kinase 3
  • Mice
  • Models, Immunological*
  • Protein Subunits
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / physiology
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / analysis
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2 / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Thymus Gland / growth & development
  • Thymus Gland / immunology


  • Interleukin-15
  • Interleukin-2
  • Protein Subunits
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell
  • Receptors, Interleukin-2
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Jak3 protein, mouse
  • Janus Kinase 3