Although glucocorticoid (GC) is widely used for treating hematopoietic malignancies including adult T-cell leukemia (ATL), the mechanism by which leukemic cells become resistant to GC in the clinical course remains unclear. Using a series of T-cell lines infected with human T lymphotropic virus type-I (HTLV-I), the causative virus of ATL, we have dissected the transformation from interleukin (IL)-2-dependent to -independent growth stage. The transformation associates the loss of thioredoxin-binding protein-2 (TBP-2), a tumor suppressor and regulator of lipid metabolism. Here we show that TBP-2 is responsible for GC-induced apoptosis in ATL cells. In the IL-2-dependent stage, dexamethasone induced TBP-2 expression and apoptosis, both of which were blocked by GC receptor (GR) antagonist RU486. Knockdown of TBP-2 consistently reduced the amount of GC-induced apoptosis. In IL-2-independent stage, however, expression of GR and TBP-2 was suppressed and GC failed to induce apoptosis. Forced expression of GR led the cells to mild sensitivity to GC, which was also accomplished by treatment with suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid, a TBP-2 inducer. A transfection experiment showed that TBP-2 expression induced apoptosis in IL-2-independent ATL cells. Thus, TBP-2 is likely to be one of the key molecules for GC-induced apoptosis and a potential target for treating the advanced stage of ATL.