The signaling symphony: T cell receptor tunes cytokine-mediated T cell differentiation

J Leukoc Biol. 2015 Mar;97(3):477-85. doi: 10.1189/jlb.1RI0614-293R. Epub 2014 Dec 18.


T cell development, differentiation, and maintenance are orchestrated by 2 key signaling axes: the antigen-specific TCR and cytokine-mediated signals. The TCR signals the recognition of self- and foreign antigens to control T cell homeostasis for immune tolerance and immunity, which is regulated by a variety of cytokines to determine T cell subset homeostasis and differentiation. TCR signaling can synergize with or antagonize cytokine-mediated signaling to fine tune T cell fate; however, the latter is less investigated. Murine models with attenuated TCR signaling strength have revealed that TCR signaling can function as regulatory feedback machinery for T cell homeostasis and differentiation in differential cytokine milieus, such as IL-2-mediated Treg development; IL-7-mediated, naïve CD8(+) T cell homeostasis; and IL-4-induced innate memory CD8(+) T cell development. In this review, we discuss the symphonic cross-talk between TCR and cytokine-mediated responses that differentially control T cell behavior, with a focus on the negative tuning by TCR activation on the cytokine effects.

Keywords: effector function; homeostasis; pathway crosstalk; proliferation; signal rheostat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology*
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis / immunology
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Cytokines
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell