Expression of the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family member Bim is regulated by the forkhead transcription factor FKHR-L1
Cell death is regulated mainly through an evolutionarily conserved form of cell suicide termed apoptosis . Deregulation of apoptosis has been associated with cancer, autoimmune diseases and degenerative disorders. Many cells, particularly those of the hematopoietic system, have a default program of cell death and survival that is dependent on the constant supply of survival signals. The Bcl-2 family, which has both pro- and anti-apoptotic members, plays a critical role in regulating cell survival . One family member, the Bcl-2 interacting mediator of cell death (Bim), contains only a protein-interaction motif known as the BH3 domain, allowing it to bind pro-survival Bcl-2 molecules, neutralizing their function . Disruption of the bim gene results in resistance to apoptosis following cytokine withdrawal in leukocytes, indicating that regulation of the pro-apoptotic activity of Bim is critical for maintenance of the default apoptotic program . Here, we report that withdrawal of cytokine results in upregulation of Bim expression concomitant with induction of the apoptotic program in lymphocytes. Activation of the forkhead transcription factor FKHR-L1, previously implicated in regulation of apoptosis in T lymphocytes , was sufficient to induce Bim expression. We propose a mechanism by which cytokines promote lymphocyte survival by inhibition of FKHR-L1, preventing Bim expression.