Biochemical and kinetic characterization of the glucocorticoid-induced apoptosis of immature CD4+CD8+ thymocytes

Vladimir N. Ivanov, Janko Nikolić-Žugić

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33 Scopus citations


We characterized kinetic and biochemical changes during glucocorticoid (GC)-induced apoptosis of immature CD8+CD4+ double-positive (DP) thymocytes. A GC analog dexamethasone (Dex) induced rapid apoptotic commitment and a transient up-regulation of the NF-κB/RelA-p50-binding activity in DP cells. This required an early activation of proteasome, as judged by the ability of a specific proteasomal inhibitor, lactacystine, to delay apoptosis and to suppress Dex-dependent NF-κB activation. Dex-induced apoptotic commitment was preceded by the rapid (3 h) cleavage of both a typical caspase substrate, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), and of nuclear transcription factors AP-1, NF-κB p50-p50 and NUR-77. By contrast, phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) and/or ionomycin-induced apoptosis had much slower kinetics, were preceded by an early increase of NF-κB/RelA-p50, AP-1 and NUR-77 activities, and were insensitive to proteasome inhibition. Both the transgenic Bcl-2 and zVAD-fmk, an inhibitor of caspases, affected all features of Dex-induced apoptosis in a similar fashion, by inhibiting cell death and PARP cleavage, and by stabilizing AP-1, NF-κB p50-p50 and NUR-77 levels. Furthermore, Bcl-2 prevented Dex-induced RelA-p50 activation. However, a higher gene dosage of the transgenic Bcl-2 was required for protection against Dex, compared to the PMA and/or ionomycin-induced apoptosis. These findings highlight the unique mechanistic features of GC-induced apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1807-1817
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Immunology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1998


  • Apoptosis
  • Corticosteroids
  • Proteasome
  • Thymocytes
  • Transcription factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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