Protein kinase CK2 controls the fate between Th17 cell and regulatory T cell differentiation

Academic Article


  • CK2 is a highly conserved and pleiotropic serine/threonine kinase that promotes many prosurvival and proinflammatory signaling pathways, including PI3K/Akt/mTOR and JAK/STAT. These pathways are essential for CD4+T cell activation and polarization, but little is known about how CK2 functions in T cells. In this article, we demonstrate that CK2 expression and kinase activity are induced upon CD4+T cell activation. Targeting the catalytic activity of CK2 using the next-generation small molecule inhibitor CX-4945 in vitro significantly and specifically inhibited mouse and human Th17 cell differentiation while promoting the generation of Foxp3+ regulatory T cells (Tregs). These findings were associated with suppression of PI3K/Akt/mTOR activation and STAT3 phosphorylation upon CX-4945 treatment. Furthermore, we demonstrate that CX-4945 treatment inhibits the maturation of Th17 cells into inflammatory IFN-g-coproducing effector cells. The Th17/Treg axis and maturation of Th17 cells are major contributing factors to the pathogenesis of many autoimmune disorders, including multiple sclerosis. Using a murine model of multiple sclerosis, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, we demonstrate that in vivo administration of CX-4945 targets Akt/mTOR signaling in CD4+T cells and the Th17/Treg axis throughout disease. Importantly, CX-4945 treatment after disease initiation significantly reduced disease severity, which was associated with a significant decrease in the frequency of pathogenic IFN-g+ and GM-CSF+ Th17 cells in the CNS. Our data implicate CK2 as a regulator of the Th17/Treg axis and Th17 cell maturation and suggest that CK2 could be targeted for the treatment of Th17 cell-driven autoimmune disorders.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Gibson SA; Yang W; Yan Z; Liu Y; Rowse AL; Weinmann AS; Qin H; Benveniste EN
  • Start Page

  • 4244
  • End Page

  • 4254
  • Volume

  • 198
  • Issue

  • 11