Mechanisms of bone marrow progenitor cell apoptosis in aplastic anaemia and the effect of anti-thymocyte globulin: examination of the role of the Fas-Fas-L interaction

Br J Haematol. 2000 Dec;111(4):1164-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2141.2000.02485.x.


The mechanism of action of anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) in aplastic anaemia (AA) is complex. Bone marrow (BM) CD34(+) cells in AA have been shown to be more apoptotic and have a higher expression of Fas antigen (Fas-ag) than in normal donors. The aims of this study were to delineate further the mechanism for increased bone marrow progenitor cell apoptosis in AA and investigate the effects of ATG on apoptosis and Fas-ag expression. BM was obtained from six normal donors and 10 untreated AA patients. We confirmed that AA BM CD34(+) cells were more apoptotic than normal donor cells (P = 0.002). Following treatment with ATG, the mean percentage reduction of apoptosis was 34% (9.2-65.9%). BM from 30 AA and 10 normal donors was then stained for CD34, Fas-ag and 7-AminoActinomycin D. The proportion of CD34(+) Fas(+) cells was higher in untreated AA (P = 0.0001) than in normal donors. Results also showed that the majority of CD34(+) Fas(+) cells were apoptotic/dead in normal donors (mean 81%) and AA (88%), indicating that Fas is involved in apoptosis of CD34(+) cells. In contrast, the majority of CD34(+) Fas(-) cells in normal donors were live (mean 91%), while two patterns emerged in untreated AA. In seven patients, the majority of cells were live, however, in the remaining eight patients, the majority of cells were apoptotic/dead, suggesting an alternative mechanism for apoptosis in addition to Fas-ag. Finally, we have shown that in vivo ATG treatment reduced the expression of Fas-ag on AA BM CD34(+) cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anemia, Aplastic / blood
  • Anemia, Aplastic / therapy*
  • Antigens, CD34*
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Fas Ligand Protein
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / immunology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous / therapeutic use*
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • fas Receptor / metabolism


  • Antigens, CD34
  • FASLG protein, human
  • Fas Ligand Protein
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • fas Receptor