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Blood. 2004 Dec 15;104(13):4134-41. Epub 2004 Aug 19.

Decrease of Bcl-xL and augmentation of thymocyte apoptosis in GILZ overexpressing transgenic mice.

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  • 1Section of Pharmacology, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Perugia, Via del Giochetto, 06122 Perugia, Italy.


Glucocorticoids promote thymocyte apoptosis and modulate transcription of numerous genes. GILZ (glucocorticoid-induced leucine zipper), being one of them, is strongly up-regulated in the thymus. To elucidate its function we generated transgenic mice overexpressing it specifically in the T-cell lineage and characterized its influence on thymus function. In young adult transgenic mice CD4(+)CD8(+) thymocyte number was significantly decreased and ex vivo thymocyte apoptosis was increased. Apoptotic pathway analysis detected reduced antiapoptotic B-cell leukemia XL (Bcl-xL) expression and increased activation of caspase-8 and caspase-3. Time-course experiments showed that in wild-type (WT) thymocytes GILZ up-regulation was followed by sequential Bcl-xL decreased expression and activation of caspase-8 and of caspase-3. Moreover, GILZ delivered inside WT thymocytes by a fusion protein with the transactivator of transcription (TAT) peptide decreased Bcl-xL and promoted their apoptosis. In aged mice perturbation of thymic subset numbers was amplified over time, as demonstrated by a further decrease in CD4(+)CD8(+) cells and increases in CD4(+)CD8(-), CD4(-)CD8(-), and CD8(+)CD4(-) cell counts. These results support the hypothesis that GILZ participates in the regulation of thymocyte apoptosis by glucocorticoids.

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