Fas (APO-1/CD95) is a cell surface receptor initially identified in lymphoid cells, but more recently detected in the central nervous system under pathological, usually inflammatory, conditions. In most Fas expressing cells, triggering of Fas by its ligand or by antagonistic antibodies leads to apoptosis. Human fetal astrocytes (HFA) constitutively express Fas yet are resistant to cell death following Fas ligation. In the current study, using dissociated cultures of human fetal central nervous system-derived cells, we attempted to identify a basis for HFA resistance to Fas-mediated injury. We compared the components of the Fas signaling pathway of HFA to those of two human cell lines susceptible to Fas-mediated injury, U251 glioma and Jurkat T-cells. We found that HFA did not express caspase 8 (FLICE), the caspase primarily activated on Fas signaling. Although we could induce caspase 8 in HFA with the inflammatory cytokines IFNgamma and TNFalpha, HFA remained resistant to Fas-mediated injury. Addition of inflammatory cytokines to the extracellular milieu also increased FLIP mRNA (FLICE inhibitory protein). Furthermore, upon triggering of cytokine-treated cells with FasL, we observed upregulation of the cleavage product of FLIP (p43-FLIP) previously shown to associate with the DISC and to block caspase 8 recruitment, thereby inhibiting Fas-mediated death. Our findings indicate that caspase 8 and its regulators play a central role in determining the response to Fas ligation of HFA and support a role for Fas signaling in the developing central nervous system other than related to cytotoxicity.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.