Glucocorticoids are widely used immunosuppressive drugs in treatment of autoimmune diseases and hematological malignancies. Glucocorticoids are particularly effective immune suppressants, because they induce rapid peripheral T cell and thymocyte apoptosis resulting in impaired T cell-dependent immune responses. Although glucocorticoids can induce apoptotic cell death directly in developing thymocytes, how exogenous glucocorticoids affect the thymic epithelial network that provides the microenvironment for T cell development is still largely unknown. In the present work, we show that primary thymic epithelial cells (TECs) express glucocorticoid receptors and that high-dosage dexamethasone induces degeneration of the thymic epithelium within 24 h of treatment. Changes in organ morphology are accompanied by a decrease in the TEC transcription factor FoxN1 and its regulator Wnt-4 parallel with upregulation of lamina-associated polypeptide 2α and peroxisome proliferator activator receptor γ, two characteristic molecular markers for adipose thymic involution. Overexpression of Wnt-4, however, can prevent upregulation of adipose differentiation-related aging markers, suggesting an important role of Wnt-4 in thymic senescence.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geriatrics and Gerontology