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Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2002 Oct;227(9):763-70.

Glucocorticoid-induced apoptosis in early B cells from human bone marrow.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824-1319, USA.


The sensitivity of normal human lymphoid precursor cells to glucocorticoid-induced apoptosis is a subject of controversy. The in vitro response of cells of the B lineage (CD19(+)) from the marrow of 22 adult subjects to glucocorticoids was evaluated herein using both natural steroids and dexamethasone (Dex). When exposed to 1 micro M Dex, 32% of the subjects exhibited high losses of CD19(+) B cells in the range of 45%. The remaining subjects exhibited more modest losses in CD19(+) cells of 26%-40%. Surprisingly, cortisol, a naturally produced glucocorticoid, produced B lineage losses nearly equivalent to Dex, which reached maximum by 12 hr. It was subsequently noted that the variances in losses of CD19(+) cells among the subjects correlated closely with the proportion of early CD10(+) CD19(+) B cells present in the initial population. The latter cells exhibited a high degree of sensitivity to glucocorticoids, with losses of 60%-80% noted. Mature B cells bearing IgD, on the other hand, were fairly resistant to glucocorticoids. Merocyanine 540, a membrane dye that fluoresces in the disordered membrane of apoptotic cells, confirmed that early or progenitor B cells in human bone marrow were indeed undergoing glucocorticoid-induced apoptosis, which could be blocked by the glucocorticoid antagonist RU38486. These data provide evidence that human marrow B cells, especially early B-cell progenitors, are quite sensitive to glucocorticoids and readily undergo apoptosis within a few hours of exposure to the steroids.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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