Why are the phenotypes of TRAF6 knock-in and TRAF6 knock-out mice so different?

Tsvetana Petrova, Kyle Bennett, Sambit Nanda, Sam Strickson, Cheryl Scudamore, Alan Prescott, Philip Cohen (Lead / Corresponding author)

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The expression of TNF-Receptor Associated Factor 6 (TRAF6) is essential for many physiological processes. Here we studied the phenotype of TRAF6[L74H] knock-in mice which are devoid of TRAF6 E3 ligase activity in every cell of the body, but express normal levels of the TRAF6 protein. Remarkably, TRAF6[L74H] mice have none of the phenotypes seen in TRAF6 KO mice. Instead TRAF6[L74H] mice display an entirely different phenotype, exhibiting autoimmunity, and severe inflammation of the skin and modest inflammation of the liver and lungs. Similar to mice with a Treg-specific knockout of TRAF6, or mice devoid of TRAF6 in all T cells, the CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in the spleen and lymph nodes displayed an activated effector memory phenotype with CD44high/CD62Llow expression on the cell surface. In contrast, T cells from WT mice exhibited the CD44low/CD62Lhigh phenotype characteristic of naïve T cells. The onset of autoimmunity and autoinflammation in TRAF6[L74H] mice (two weeks) was much faster than in mice with a Treg-specific knockout of TRAF6 or lacking TRAF6 expression in all T cells (2–3 months) and we discuss whether this may be caused by secondary inflammation of other tissues. The distinct phenotypes of mice lacking TRAF6 expression in all cells appears to be explained by their inability to signal via TNF Receptor Superfamily members, which does not seem to be impaired significantly in TRAF6[L74H] mice.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0263151
Number of pages22
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2022


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