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J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 1999 Apr-Jun;13(2):80-9.

Apoptosis of human T-cells: induction by glucocorticoids or surface receptor ligation in vitro and ex vivo.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Multipurpose Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases Center, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Biol Regul Homeost Agents 1999 Oct-Dec;13(4):following 267.


Activated T-cells are susceptible to induction of apoptosis or programmed cell death in response to ligation of several cell surface structures, including CD2, CD3, and CD95/Fas. These mechanisms may be important in the regulation of immune responses and in prevention of autoimmunity. We used flow cytometric quantitation of DNA strand breaks to detect T-cells committed to programmed cell death. Activated human peripheral blood T-lymphocytes, and freshly isolated human thymocytes underwent apoptosis when exposed to dexamethasone or to monoclonal antibodies directed at CD2 or CD3. Interleukin-2 reduced spontaneous or dexamethasone-induced apoptosis, but augmented apoptosis due to ligation of CD2. A neutralizing anti-Fas antibody reduced the amount of DNA strand breakage, not only in T-cells exposed to antibodies to CD2 or CD3, but also in dexamethasone-treated cultures. In vivo activated T-cells, from inflammatory synovial fluids, were sensitive to immediate induction of DNA strand breaks without prior in vitro activation by lectin and IL-2. Taken together, the results indicated that: 1. Human lymphocytes, like murine thymocytes, are sensitive to glucocorticoid-induced apoptosis, as well as to programmed cell death triggered through surface receptors; 2. The effects of IL-2 on T-cell apoptosis depend on the apoptotic stimulus; 3. Fas/Fas ligand interactions may be relevant for both membrane receptor and glucocorticoid-induced cell death; and 4. Induction of T-cell apoptosis may be important in therapeutic effects of glucocorticoids in human disease.

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