Background: Upon repeated or chronic antigen stimulation, activated T cells undergo a T cell receptor (TCR)-triggered propriocidal cell death important for governing the intensity of immune responses. This is thought to be chiefly mediated by an extrinsic signal through the Fas-FasL pathway. However, we observed that TCR restimulation still potently induced apoptosis when this interaction was blocked, or genetically impaired in T cells derived from autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome (ALPS) patients, prompting us to examine Fas-independent, intrinsic signals.
Results: Upon TCR restimulation, we specifically noted a marked increase in the expression of BIM, a pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family protein known to mediate lymphocyte apoptosis induced by cytokine withdrawal. In fact, T cells from an ALPS type IV patient in which BIM expression is suppressed were more resistant to restimulation-induced death. Strikingly, knockdown of BIM expression rescued normal T cells from TCR-induced death to as great an extent as Fas disruption.
Conclusion: Our data implicates BIM as a critical mediator of apoptosis induced by restimulation as well as growth cytokine withdrawal. These findings suggest an important role for BIM in eliminating activated T cells even when IL-2 is abundant, working in conjunction with Fas to eliminate chronically stimulated T cells and maintain immune homeostasis.
Reviewers: This article was reviewed by Dr. Wendy Davidson (nominated by Dr. David Scott), Dr. Mark Williams (nominated by Dr. Neil Greenspan), and Dr. Laurence C. Eisenlohr.