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Investigating the Mechanism of Nur77-Induced Apoptosis in T Cells

Nur77 is a member of the orphan nuclear receptor family, where it is known to play an important role in apoptosis in both negative selection in T cells and in cancer cell lines. In the development of T cells, it is critical for the immune system to discriminate self from non-self by eliminating auto-reactive cells. It was originally thought that Nur77 initiated apoptosis by activating downstream gene targets. However, it is now clear that Nur77 has its own distinct role outside of the nucleus and the precise mechanisms by which Nur77 induces apoptosis in T cells still needs to be clarified. Calcium plays an important role as a second messenger in various cellular responses, one of which includes apoptosis. The IP3 receptor controls efflux of calcium from the ER and can be activated through TCR activation. This signal induces a rise in cytoplasmic calcium levels ultimately causing cell death through mechanisms that remain unclear. Here, we use a double positive DO11.10 T cell line with tetracycline responsive Nur77, to examine the effects of cytosolic Nur77. Through co-immunoprecipitation experiments we suggest, that the presence of Nur77 disrupts the IP3R/Bcl-2 interaction. In this study, we also investigated the effect of Nur77 on intracellular calcium levels. We show that Nur77 increases baseline calcium levels and causes emptying of ER calcium stores. We suggest a model where cytosolic Nur77 disrupts the IP3R/Bcl-2 interaction by binding Bcl-2 at the mitochondria or ER, causing calcium release through the IP3R and apoptosis of the cell.