The retinoid-related orphan receptor g (RORg) is a member of the nuclear receptor superfamily. To identify the physiological functions of RORg, mice deficient in RORg function were generated by targeted disruption. RORg -/- mice lack peripheral and mesenteric lymph nodes and Peyer's patches indicating that RORg expression is indispensable for lymph node organogenesis. Although the spleen is enlarged, its architecture is normal. The number of peripheral blood CD3+ and CD4+ lymphocytes is reduced 6- and 10-fold, respectively, while the number of circulating B cells is normal. The thymus of RORg-/- mice contains 74.4+ 8.9% fewer thymocytes than that of wt mice. Flow cytometric analysis showed a decrease in the CD4+CD8+ subpopulation. TUNEL staining demonstrated a four-fold increase in apoptotic cells in the cortex of the thymus of RORg-/- mice. This was supported by the observed increase in annexin V-positive cells. RORg-/- thymocytes placed in culture exhibit a dramatic increase in the rate of """"""""spontaneous"""""""" apoptosis. This increase is largely associated with CD4+CD8+ thymocytes and may at least in part be related to the greatly reduced level of expression of the anti-apoptotic gene Bcl-XL. Flow cytometric analysis demonstrated a six-fold rise in the percentage of cells in the S phase of the cell cycle among thymocytes from RORg-/- mice. Our observations indicate that RORg is essential for lymphoid organogenesis and plays an important regulatory role in thymopoiesis. Recently, we found that RORg-/- mice are highly susceptible to the development of T-cells lymphomas. Altered expression of ROR leads to deregulation of the differentiation of thymocytes, increased proliferation of double negative thymocytes, which in turn increases the frequency of tumor formation.
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