Apoptosis of T lymphocytes invading glioblastomas multiforme: a possible tumor defense mechanism

J Neurosurg. 2002 Mar;96(3):580-4. doi: 10.3171/jns.2002.96.3.0580.


Object: The goal of this study was to investigate whether apoptosis occurs in T lymphocytes that invade Fas ligand (FasL)-expressing glioblastomas multiforme (GBMs) and if its induction could be mediated by Fas.

Methods: Apoptotic T lymphocytes were detected in GBMs by using detection of cell-type markers combined with active caspase-3 immunohistochemical analysis, a recently introduced apoptosis-specific in situ ligation assay, as well as by examining morphological criteria. Apoptotic T cells expressed Fas and were localized in the vicinity or in direct contact with FasL-expressing tumor cells. The T lymphocytes were undergoing apoptosis in spite of Bcl-2 expression. Expression of Bax was also detected in dying T cells, which can explain the absence of the protective effect of Bcl-2. because Bax inhibits Bcl-2 death-repressor activity.

Conclusions: On the basis of the data presented in this paper, the authors suggest that GBM cells that express FasL can induce apoptosis in invading immune cells. This phenomenon may play an important role in these tumors' maintenance of immune privilege and evasion of immune attacks. Awareness of this phenomenon should be helpful for the development of novel strategies for treatment of malignant gliomas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Apoptosis / immunology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics
  • Brain Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Fas Ligand Protein
  • Glioblastoma / genetics
  • Glioblastoma / immunology*
  • Glioblastoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / genetics
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / immunology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / pathology
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein


  • BAX protein, human
  • FASLG protein, human
  • Fas Ligand Protein
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein