Neddylation contributes to CD4<sup>+</sup> T cell-mediated protective immunity against blood-stage <i>Plasmodium</i> infection

by Qianqian Cheng, Jian Liu, Yujun Pei, Yaolin Zhang, Dawang Zhou, Weiqing Pan, Jiyan Zhang

CD4+ T cells play predominant roles in protective immunity against blood-stage Plasmodium infection, both for IFN-γ-dependent effector mechanisms and providing B cell helper signals. Neddylation, an ubiquitination-like process triggered by covalent conjugation of NEDD8 to specific targets, has emerged as a potential regulator of T cell activities to TCR engagement. However, its contribution to T cell-mediated immunity to blood-stage malaria remains unclear. Here using an experimental model induced by Plasmodium yoelii 17XNL, and conditional knockout mice with T cell-specific deficiency of crucial components of neddylation pathway, we demonstrate activation of neddylation in T cells during blood-stage Plasmodium infection is essential for parasite control and host survival. Mechanistically, we show that apart from promoting CD4+ T cell activation, proliferation, and development of protective T helper 1 (Th1) cell response as suggested previously, neddylation is also required for supporting CD4+ T cell survival, mainly through B-cell lymphoma-2 (Bcl-2) mediated suppression of the mitochondria-dependent apoptosis. Furthermore, we provide evidence that neddylation contributes to follicular helper T (Tfh) cell differentiation, probably via augmenting the ubiquitin ligase Itch activity and proteasomal degradation of FoxO1, thereby facilitating germinal center (GC) formation and parasite-specific antibody production. This study identifies neddylation as a positive regulator of anti-Plasmodium immunity and provides insight into an involvement of such pathway in host resistance to infectious diseases.

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