Protein kinase 2 (CK2) controls CD4+ T cell effector function in the pathogenesis of colitis

Mucosal Immunol. 2020 Sep;13(5):788-798. doi: 10.1038/s41385-020-0258-x. Epub 2020 Jan 27.


Crohn's disease (CD), one of the major forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is characterized by chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and associated with aberrant CD4+ T-helper type 1 (Th1) and Th17 responses. Protein kinase 2 (CK2) is a conserved serine-threonine kinase involved in signal transduction pathways, which regulate immune responses. CK2 promotes Th17 cell differentiation and suppresses the generation of Foxp3+ regulatory T cells. The function of CK2 in CD4+ T cells during the pathogenesis of CD is unknown. We utilized the T cell-induced colitis model, transferring CD45RBhi-naive CD4+ T cells from CK2αfl/fl controls and CK2αfl/fldLck-Cre mice into Rag1-/- mice. CD4+ T cells from CK2αfl/fldLck-Cre mice failed to induce wasting disease and significant intestinal inflammation, which was associated with decreased interleukin-17A-positive (IL-17A+), interferon-γ-positive (IFN-γ+), and double-positive IL-17A+IFN-γ+ CD4+ T cells in the spleen and colon. We determined that CK2α regulates CD4+ T cell proliferation through a cell-intrinsic manner. CK2α is also important in controlling CD4+ T cell responses by regulating NFAT2, which is vital for T cell activation and proliferation. Our findings indicate that CK2α contributes to the pathogenesis of colitis by promoting CD4+ T cell proliferation and Th1 and Th17 responses, and that targeting CK2 may be a novel therapeutic treatment for patients with CD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Cell Survival / immunology
  • Colitis / etiology*
  • Colitis / metabolism*
  • Colitis / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Susceptibility*
  • Gene Expression
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Mice
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases