Fas (CD95/Apo-1) receptor (FasR) is a cell-surface receptor that mediates apoptotic cell death upon triggering by Fas ligand (FasL). We sought to determine whether normal human esophageal epithelial cells express FasL and/or FasR and whether their localization is consistent with a role in the turnover of normal esophageal epithelium. Normal esophageal epithelium was immunohistochemically positive for FasL in upper prickle cell layers and in mature squamous cells, but the proliferative basal layer was negative. FasL mRNA was detected in the same epithelial cell layers by in situ hybridization. Co-localization of FasL mRNA and protein therefore confirmed that FasL expression is induced in esophageal epithelial cells as they reach terminal differentiation. FasR was immunohistochemically detected throughout the esophageal epithelium. Positive TUNEL (terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT)-mediated dUTP nick end-labeling) staining confirmed cell death of the FasL and FasR coexpressing mature epithelial cells. CD45-positive immunocytes were notably absent from FasL-expressing upper epithelial layers. The findings are consistent with a contributory role for Fas-mediated autocrine suicide or paracrine fratricide in the apoptotic turnover of normal esophageal epithelium.