TRAF6 prevents fatal inflammation by homeostatic suppression of MALT1 protease

O'Neill, T.J., Seeholzer, T., Gewies, A., Gehring, T., Giesert, F., Hamp, I., Grass, C., Schmidt, H., Kriegsmann, K., Tofaute, M.J., Demski, K., Poth, T., Rosenbaum, M., Schnalzger, T., Ruland, J., Gottlicher, M., Kriegsmann, M., Naumann, R., Heissmeyer, V., Plettenburg, O., Wurst, W., Krappmann, D. (2021). Sci Immunol 6, eabh2095.



Balanced control of T cell signaling is critical for adaptive immunity and protection from autoimmunity. By combining genetically engineered mouse models, biochemical analyses and pharmacological interventions, we describe an unexpected dual role of the tumor necrosis factor receptor–associated factor 6 (TRAF6) E3 ligase as both a positive and negative regulator of mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue 1 (MALT1) paracaspase. Although MALT1-TRAF6 recruitment is indispensable for nuclear factor κB signaling in activated T cells, TRAF6 counteracts basal MALT1 protease activity in resting T cells. In mice, loss of TRAF6-mediated homeostatic suppression of MALT1 protease leads to severe autoimmune inflammation, which is completely reverted by genetic or therapeutic inactivation of MALT1 protease function. Thus, TRAF6 functions as a molecular brake for MALT1 protease in resting T cells and a signaling accelerator for MALT1 scaffolding in activated T cells, revealing that TRAF6 controls T cell activation in a switch-like manner. Our findings have important implications for development and treatment of autoimmune diseases.