Glucocorticoid hormones modulate T cell maturation in vivo. While low levels of hormones are required for appropriate T cell development, high levels of glucocorticoid hormones target immature developing thymocytes for cell death during systemic stress. In this report, we propose a molecular mechanism for the induction of apoptosis in CD4+CD8+ double-positive thymocytes by dexamethasone in vivo. Dexamethasone injection induced the expression of IκBα and IκBβ in thymocytes and down-regulated NF-κB DNA binding activated by intrathymic signals. Down-regulation of NF-κB DNA binding preceded cell death, suggesting that NF-κB may be important for the survival of immature thymocytes. In addition, ex vivo treatment of thymocyte single-cell suspension with dexamethasone accelerated p65/RelA down- regulation and cell death. Conversely, NF-κB induction diminished dexamethasone-induced death. Expression of the c-myc proto-oncogene, a NF- κB target, was also reduced in thymocytes of dexamethasone-treated animals, and ectopic transgenic expression of c-myc in mice provided partial rescue of double-positive thymocytes from dexamethasone mediated cell death. These observations suggest that viability of CD4+CD8+ thymocytes may be maintained by an NF-κB/c-myc-dependent pathway in vivo.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||9|
|Journal||Journal of Immunology|
|State||Published - Jan 1 1999|
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