The thymotoxic organotin compounds di-n-butyltin dichloride (DBTC) and tri-n-butyltin chloride (TBTC) are known to induce apoptosis in vitro in rat thymocytes. They also affect macromolecular synthesis, inhibiting DNA synthesis and increasing RNA synthesis. Since these RNA molecules, likely to be involved in the initiation of the apoptotic process, have not been identified yet, the purpose of this research was to characterize by a cDNA macroarray the expression of genes involved in DBTC-induced apoptosis. We found that nur77 was rapidly transcripted in vitro following exposure of freshly isolated rat thymocytes to 3 microM DBTC. nur77 induction has also been observed in vivo after treatment of rats with apoptotic doses (60 mg/kg body wt) of DBTC. The products of nur77 are known to be involved in the apoptotic process, as nur77 is a transcription factor expressed in response to T-cell receptor-mediated apoptosis in immature T cells. Antisense oligonucleotide inhibition of nur77 expression prevented apoptosis induced by DBTC, supporting a role for nur77 in organotin-induced apoptotic cell death.
(c) 2002 Elsevier Science (USA).