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Blood. 2008 Nov 15;112(10):3949-58. doi: 10.1182/blood-2008-04-149419. Epub 2008 Sep 2.

IL-3 induces a Pim1-dependent antiapoptotic pathway in primary human basophils.

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  • 1Institute of Immunology, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.


The contribution of basophils in allergic disease and other Th2-type immune responses depends on their persistence at sites of inflammation, but the ligands and molecular pathways supporting basophil survival are largely unknown. The comparison of rates of apoptosis and of the expression of antiapoptotic proteins in different human granulocyte types revealed that basophils have a considerably longer spontaneous life span than neutrophils and eosinophils consistent with high levels of constitutive Bcl-2 expression. Interleukin-3 (IL-3) is the only ligand that efficiently protects basophils from apoptosis as evidenced by screening a large number of stimuli. IL-3 up-regulates the expression of the antiapoptotic proteins cIAP2, Mcl-1, and Bcl-X(L) and induces a rapid and sustained de novo expression of the serine/threonine kinase Pim1 that closely correlates with cytokine-enhanced survival. Inhibitor studies and protein transduction of primary basophils using wild-type and kinase-dead Pim1-Tat fusion-proteins demonstrate the functional importance of Pim1 induction in the IL-3-enhanced survival. Our data further indicate that the antiapoptotic Pim1-mediated pathway operates independently of PI3-kinase but involves the activation of p38 MAPK. The induction of Pim1 leading to PI3-kinase-independent survival as described here for basophils may also be a relevant antiapoptotic mechanism in other terminally differentiated leukocyte types.

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