Two retinoic acid (RA) receptors, retinoic acid receptors (RARs) and retinoid X receptors (RXRs), have been identified. All-trans-RA and its 9- cis-isomer are ligands for RARs, but only 9-cis-RA binds RXRs with high affinity. Activation-induced T cell hybridoma death is mediated via the engagement of Fas by activation-up-regulated Fas ligand, and RA prevents this type of apoptosis by inhibiting the induction of Fas ligand expression. To investigate the mechanism of RA action, T hybridoma cells were transfected with cDNA encoding RXRβ or dominant-negative RXRβ. Cells that overexpressed RXRβ were more sensitive to 9-cis-RA rescue from activation-induced death than cells transfected with vector alone. In contrast, cells expressing the dominant-negative RXRβ could not be rescued from death with 9-cis-RA. In wild type cells, an RAR-selective synthetic retinoid had little effect on activation-induced apoptosis, while an RXR-selective agonist prevented apoptosis but only at concentrations about ~10-fold greater than that required for 9-cis-RA. Simultaneous addition of the RAR- and RXR-selective retinoids completely prevented activation-induced apoptosis at concentrations where either alone had relatively little protective effect. The same hierarchy of efficacy was found for activation-induced Fas ligand expression. These data demonstrate that binding of both RARs and RXRs is required for efficient inhibition of activation-induced Fas ligand up-regulation and T cell apoptosis by retinoic acid.
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