Activation of nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) is crucial for immune responses. IKKε is an IκB kinase (IKK)-related kinase, and the function of IKKε remains obscure in T cells, despite its abundant expression. We report that IKKε inhibits NFAT activation and T cell responses by promoting NFATc1 phosphorylation. During T cell activation, IKKε was transiently activated to phosphorylate NFATc1. Loss of IKKε elevated T cell antitumor and antiviral immunity and, therefore, reduced tumor development and persistent viral infection. IKKε was activated in CD8(+) T cells of mice bearing melanoma or persistently infected with a model herpesvirus. These results collectively show that IKKε promotes NFATc1 phosphorylation and inhibits T cell responses, identifying IKKε as a crucial negative regulator of T cell activation and a potential target for immunotherapy.
Copyright © 2016 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.