The Gfi-1 protooncogene encodes a nuclear zinc-finger protein that carries a novel repressor domain, SNAG, and functions as a position- and orientation-independent active transcriptional repressor. The Gfi-1 repressor allows interleukin 2 (IL-2)-dependent T cells to escape G1 arrest induced by IL-2 withdrawal in culture and collaborates with c-myc and pim-1 for the induction of retrovirus-induced lymphomas in animals. Here we show that overexpression of Gfi-1 also inhibits cell death induced by cultivation of IL-2-dependent T-cell lines in IL-2-deficient media. Similarly, induction of Gfi-1 in primary thymocytes from mice carrying a metal-inducible Gfi-1 transgene inhibits cell death induced by cultivation in vitro. The protein and mRNA levels of the proapoptotic regulator Bax are down-regulated by Gfi-1 in both immortalized T-cell lines and primary transgenic thymocytes. The repression is direct and depends on several Gfi-1-binding sites in the p53-inducible Bax promoter. In addition to Bax, Gfi-1 also represses Bak, another apoptosis-promoting member of the Bcl-2 gene family. Therefore, Gfi-1 may inhibit apoptosis by means of its repression of multiple proapoptotic regulators. The antiapoptotic properties of Gfi-1 provide a potential explanation for its strong collaboration with c-myc during oncogenesis
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