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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2006 Jan;63(1):60-72.

Glucocorticoids in T cell apoptosis and function.

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Molecular Immunology, Institute for Virology and Immunobiology, University of Würzburg, Versbacher Strasse 7, 97078 Würzburg, Germany.


Glucocorticoids (GCs) are a class of steroid hormones which regulate a variety of essential biological functions. The profound anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive activity of synthetic GCs, combined with their power to induce lymphocyte apoptosis place them among the most commonly prescribed drugs worldwide. Endogenous GCs also exert a wide range of immunomodulatory activities, including the control of T cell homeostasis. Most, if not all of these effects are mediated through the glucocorticoid receptor, a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily. However, the signaling pathways and their cell type specificity remain poorly defined. In this review, we summarize our present knowledge on GC action, the mechanisms employed to induce apoptosis and the currently discussed models of how they may participate in thymocyte development. Although our knowledge in this field has substantially increased during recent years, we are still far from a comprehensive picture of the role that GCs play in T lymphocytes.

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