The Ras signaling pathway plays a critical role in thymopoiesis and T cell activation, but the mechanism of Ras regulation is controversial. At least one mode of Ras regulation in T cells involves the messenger diacylglycerol (DAG). RasGRP, a Ras activator with a DAG-binding CI domain, is expressed in T cells and thymocytes. Here we show that thymi of RasGRP-null mutant mice have approximately normal numbers of immature thymocytes but a marked deficiency of mature, single-positive (CD4+CD8- and CD4-CD8+) thymocytes. In Ras signaling and proliferation assays, mutant thymocytes showed a complete lack of response to DAG analogs or T cell receptor (TCR) stimulation by antibodies. Thus, TCR and DAG are linked through RasGRP to Ras signaling.
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