The glucocorticoid receptor (GR) is a ligand-regulated transcription factor that controls genes necessary to initiate glucocorticoid-induced thymocyte apoptosis. We have performed a genetic analysis of thymocyte cell death by isolating and characterizing a panel of GR+ dexamethasone-resistant mutants of the murine WEHI7.2 thymocyte cell line. These apoptosis-defective (Apt-) mutants were used to identify previously unknown early steps in the apoptotic pathway. The Apt- mutants contain nonglucocorticoid receptor, recessive mutations in genes that represent multiple complementation groups. These mutations block apoptosis induced by dexamethasone, gamma irradiation, and c-AMP treatment before the point where Bcl-2 exerts its protective effect. We propose that different signals share a common apoptotic pathway, and that the induction of apoptosis involves multiple precommitment steps that can be blocked by recessive mutations.

This content is only available as a PDF.