Itchy mice: The identification of a new pathway for the development of autoimmunity

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31 Scopus citations


Itchy mice possess a loss-of-function mutation in a HECT-domain-containing ubiquitin ligase (E3), Itch. Homozygous itchy mice develop a systemic and progressive autoimmune disease that proves lethal beginning at 6 months of age. Numerous targets of Itch-mediated ubiquitination have been identified, and some of these have defined physiological roles for Itch signaling in T cell anergy and T cell differentiation. Studies of itchy mice have also allowed for the identification of a novel pathway involved in autoimmunity: noncanonical Notch signaling. In itchy mice carrying an activated Notch1 transgene, there are increased amounts of full-length Notch1, which can complex with p56 lck and PI3K to activate a cell survival signal that is mediated by phospho-AKT. This, in turn, leads to a reduction in apoptosis in the thymus and may have consequences in T cell tolerance. A role for noncanonical Notch signaling in autoimmune disease is also supported by numerous mouse knockout studies, and suggests possible new therapeutic approaches for the treatment of autoimmune disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-200
Number of pages16
JournalCurrent topics in microbiology and immunology
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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