TBK-binding protein 1 regulates IL-15-induced autophagy and NKT cell survival

Lele Zhu, Xiaoping Xie, Lingyun Zhang, Hui Wang, Zuliang Jie, Xiaofei Zhou, Jianhong Shi, Shuli Zhao, Boxiang Zhang, Xuhong Cheng, Shao Cong Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The cytokine IL-15 mediates development and survival of immune cells, including natural killer T (NKT) cells, but the underlying mechanism of IL-15 function is incompletely understood. Here we show that IL-15 induces autophagy in NKT cells with a mechanism that involves a crucial signaling component, TBK-binding protein 1 (Tbkbp1). Tbkbp1 facilitates activation of the autophagy-initiating kinase Ulk1 through antagonizing the inhibitory action of mTORC1. This antagonization involves the recruitment of an mTORC1-opposing phosphatase to Ulk1. Tbkbp1 deficiency attenuates IL-15-stimulated NKT cell autophagy, and is associated with mitochondrial dysfunction, aberrant ROS production, defective Bcl2 expression and reduced NKT cell survival. Consequently, Tbkbp1-deficient mice have profound deficiency in NKT cells, especially IFN-γ-producing NKT1. We further show that Tbkbp1 regulates IL-15-stimulated autophagy and survival of NK cells. These findings suggest a mechanism of autophagy induction by IL-15, and establish Tbkbp1 as a regulator of NKT cell development and survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2812
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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