Perspectives for the use of structural information and chemical genetics to develop inhibitors of Janus kinases
ZAP-70 is a cytoplasmic protein tyrosine kinase that is required for T cell antigen receptor (TCR) signaling. Both mice and humans deficient in ZAP-70 fail to develop functional T cells, thus demonstrating its necessity for T cell development and function. There is currently no highly specific, cell-permeable, small molecule inhibitor for ZAP-70; therefore, we generated a mutant ZAP-70 allele that retains kinase activity but is sensitive to inhibition by a mutant-specific inhibitor. We validated the chemical genetic inhibitor system in Jurkat T cell lines, where the inhibitor blocked ZAP-70-dependent TCR signaling in cells expressing the analog-sensitive allele. Interestingly, the inhibitor also ablated CD28 superagonist signaling, thereby demonstrating the utility of this system in dissecting the requirement for ZAP-70 in alternative mechanisms of T cell activation. Thus, we have developed the first specific chemical means of inhibiting ZAP-70 in cells, which serves as a valuable tool for studying the function of ZAP-70 in T cells.