Shenoy AR, Kirschnek S, Häcker G
Maintenance of T cells is determined by their survival capacity, which is regulated by Bcl-2 proteins. Cytokines signalling through the common gamma chains such as IL-2, IL-7 and IL-15 are important for T-cell survival but how these cytokines determine the expression of Bcl-2-family proteins is not clear. We report signalling events of cytokines that regulate expression of two key Bcl-2 proteins, pro-apoptotic Bim and anti-apoptotic Mcl-1, in resting C57BL/6 mouse T cells. IL-2, IL-7 and IL-15 inhibited apoptosis but paradoxically induced the expression of Bim, countered by concomitant induction of Mcl-1. Bim induction by IL-15 was found at the mRNA and protein levels and depended on both JAK/STAT and PI3K signals. A new STAT5-binding site was identified in the Bim promoter, which was occupied by STAT5 upon IL-15 stimulation. Although it also depended on JAK/STAT- and PI3K signalling, Mcl-1 regulation was independent of Mcl-1 mRNA levels and of regulation of protein stability, suggesting translational regulation. Concurrent CD3 signals inhibited some of the IL-7 effect but not the IL-15 effect on Bcl-2 proteins. The data suggest that cytokines induce Bim and prime T cells for apoptosis, but also inhibit apoptosis by stabilising Mcl-1. Later downregulation of short-lived Mcl-1 may induce efficient, Bim-dependent apoptosis.