Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) plays crucial roles in activation and differentiation of diverse types of immune cells. Although several lines of evidence have demonstrated the importance of mTOR-mediated signals in CD4+ T cell responses, the involvement of mTOR in CD8+ T cell responses is not fully understood. In this study, we show that a class IV semaphorin, SEMA4A, regulates CD8+ T cell activation and differentiation through activation of mTOR complex (mTORC) 1. SEMA4A-/- CD8+ T cells exhibited impairments in production of IFN-γ and TNF-α and induction of the effector molecules granzyme B, perforin, and FAS-L. Upon infection with OVA-expressing Listeria monocytogenes, pathogen-specific effector CD8+ T cell responses were significantly impaired in SEMA4A-/- mice. Furthermore, SEMA4A-/- CD8+ T cells exhibited reduced mTORC1 activity and elevated mTORC2 activity, suggesting that SEMA4A is required for optimal activation of mTORC1 in CD8+ T cells. IFN-γ production and mTORC1 activity in SEMA4A-/- CD8+ T cells were restored by administration of recombinant Sema4A protein. In addition, we show that plexin B2 is a functional receptor of SEMA4A in CD8+ T cells. Collectively, these results not only demonstrate the role of SEMA4A in CD8+ T cells, but also reveal a novel link between a semaphorin and mTOR signaling.
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