Journal of Autoimmunity vol:24 issue:4 pages:281-289
AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Resistance of NOD thymocytes to apoptosis-inducing signals is restored by 1alpha,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1alpha,25OH2D3), a therapy preventing diabetes in NOD mice. We studied whether modulation of thymocyte apoptosis is due to direct effects on thymic T lymphocytes or indirect effects via thymic dendritic cells, since both cell types constitute known targets for 1alpha,25OH2D3. METHODS AND RESULTS: Female NOD mice were treated with 1alpha,25OH2D3 (5microg/kg/2d) from 21 to 70 days. Vehicle-treated NOD and NOR mice served as controls. Analysis of thymic T lymphocytes from 1alpha,25OH2D3)-treated mice revealed a decrease in number of apoptosis-resistant CD4+CD8+ and CD4+CD8-HSA(high) T lymphocyte subsets, higher pro-apoptotic IL-2 and FasL, and lower anti-apoptotic Bclx-L mRNA expression levels. Thymic dendritic cells from 1alpha,25OH2D3-treated NOD mice had increased CD8alpha+FasL+ and CD80+/86+ expression compared to control NOD mice. In a syngeneic co-culture system of thymocytes and thymic dendritic cells, apoptosis levels were 20% higher only in co-cultures where both T cell- and dendritic cell-compartments originated from 1alpha,25OH2D3-treated mice. Activation-induced cell death-sensitivity in peripheral T lymphocytes was comparable to levels present in NOR mice, confirming better thymic selection in 1alpha,25OH2D3-treated mice. CONCLUSION/INTERPRETATION: We conclude that 1alpha,25OH2D3 needs both thymic T cell- and dendritic cell-compartments to exert its apoptosis-restorative effects in NOD thymocytes.