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J Cell Physiol. 1999 Jul;180(1):71-80.

Activation of the cAMP signaling pathway increases apoptosis in human B-precursor cells and is associated with downregulation of Mcl-1 expression.

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Department of Immunology, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo.


During B- and T-cell ontogeny, extensive apoptosis occurs at distinct stages of development. Agents that increase intracellular levels of cAMP induce apoptosis in thymocytes and mature B cells, prompting us to investigate the role of cAMP signaling in human CD10+ B-precursor cells. We show for the first time that forskolin (which increases intracellular levels of cAMP) increases apoptosis in the CD10- cells in a dose-dependent manner (19%-94% with 0-1,000 microM forskolin after 48 hours incubation, IC50 = 150 microM). High levels of apoptosis were also obtained by exposing the cells to the cAMP analogue 8-chlorophenylthio-cAMP (8-CPT-cAMP). Specific involvement of cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) was demonstrated by the ability of a cAMP antagonist, Rp-isomer of 8-bromo-adenosine- 3', 5'- monophosphorothioate (Rp-8-Br-cAMPS), to reverse the apoptosis increasing effect of the complementary cAMP agonist, Sp-8-Br-cAMPS. Furthermore, we investigated the expression of Bcl-2 family proteins. We found that treatment of the cells with forskolin or 8-CPT-cAMP for 48 hours resulted in a fourfold decline in the expression of Mcl-1 (n = 6, P = 0.002) compared to control cells. The expression of Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, or Bax was largely unaffected. Mature peripheral blood B cells showed a smaller increase in the percentage of apoptotic cells in response to 8-CPT-cAMP (1.3-fold, n = 6, P = 0.045) compared to B-precursor cells, and a smaller decrease in Mcl-1 levels (1.5-fold, n = 4, P = 0.014). Taken together, these findings show that cAMP is important in the regulation of apoptosis in B-progenitor and mature B cells and suggest that cAMP-increased apoptosis could be mediated, at least in part, by a decrease in Mcl-1 levels.

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