Background: T cell receptor (TCR) engagement leads to formation of signaling microclusters and induction of rapid and dynamic changes in the actin cytoskeleton, although the exact mechanism by which the TCR initiates actin polymerization is incompletely understood. The Vav family of guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEF) has been implicated in generation of TCR signals and immune synapse formation, however, it is currently not known if Vav's GEF activity is required in T cell activation by the TCR in general, and in actin polymerization downstream of the TCR in particular.
Methodology/principal findings: Here, we report that Vav1 assembles into signaling microclusters at TCR contact sites and is critical for TCR-initiated actin polymerization. Surprisingly, Vav1 functions in TCR signaling and Ca(++) mobilization via a mechanism that does not appear to strictly depend on the intrinsic GEF activity.
Conclusions/significance: We propose here a model in which Vav functions primarily as a tyrosine phosphorylated linker-protein for TCR activation of T cells. Our results indicate that, contrary to expectations based on previously published studies including from our own laboratory, pharmacological inhibition of Vav1's intrinsic GEF activity may not be an effective strategy for T cell-directed immunosuppressive therapy.