T cells develop in the thymus through positive and negative selection, which are responsible for shaping the T cell receptor (TCR) repertoire. To elucidate the molecular mechanisms involved in selection remains an area of intense interest. Here, we identified and characterized a gene product Gasp (Grb2-associating protein, also called Themis) that is critically required for positive selection. Gasp is a cytosolic protein with no known functional motifs that is expressed only in T cells, especially immature CD4/CD8 double positive (DP) thymocytes. In the absence of Gasp, differentiation of both CD4 and CD8 single positive cells in the thymus was severely inhibited, whereas all other TCR-induced events such as beta-selection, negative selection, peripheral activation, and homeostatic proliferation were unaffected. We found that Gasp constitutively associates with Grb2 via its N-terminal Src homology 3 domain, suggesting that Gasp acts as a thymocyte-specific adaptor for Grb2 or regulates Ras signaling in DP thymocytes. Collectively, we have described a gene called Gasp that is critical for positive selection.
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