The adenosine producing enzyme ecto-5'-nucleotidase (5'-NT) is not normally expressed during thymocyte development until the medullary stage. To determine whether earlier expression would lead to adenosine accumulation and/or be deleterious for thymocyte maturation, thymic purine metabolism, and T cell differentiation were studied in lckNT transgenic mice overexpressing 5'-NT in cortical thymocytes under the control of the lck proximal promoter. In spite of a 100-fold elevation in thymic 5'-NT activity, transgenic adenosine levels were unchanged and T cell immunity was normal. Inosine, the product of adenosine deamination, was elevated more than twofold, however, indicating that adenosine deaminase (ADA) can prevent the accumulation of adenosine, even with a dramatic increase in 5'-NT activity, and demonstrating the availability of 5'-NT substrates in the thymus for the first time. Thymic adenosine concentrations of mice treated with the ADA inhibitor 2'-deoxycoformycin (dCF) were elevated over 30-fold, suggesting that high ADA activity, rather than an absence of 5'-NT, is mainly responsible for low thymic adenosine levels. The adenosine concentrations in dCF-treated mice are sufficient to cause adenosine receptor-mediated thymocyte apoptosis in vitro, suggesting that adenosine accumulation could play a role in ADA-deficient severe combined immunodeficiency.
R Resta, S W Hooker, A B Laurent, S M Jamshedur Rahman, M Franklin, T B Knudsen, N L Nadon, L F Thompson