Germinal centers (GC) constitute a specialized microenvironment essential for the formation of memory B cells, B cell affinity maturation and isotype switching. Within the GC, the B cells closely interact with follicular dendritic cells (FDC) and T cells, which both provide stimuli to the B cells that prevent their entry into apoptosis and promote their differentiation into memory cells or plasma cells. Cross-linking of B cell immunoglobulin (Ig) receptors by antigen, stimulation of the integrin adhesion molecules LFA-1 and VLA-4 on the B cell through interaction with their counter receptors ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 on the FDC and cross-linking of CD40 on the B cells through interaction with the CD40 ligand (CD40L) on T cells have been shown to prevent entry into apoptosis of GC B cells. Triggering of CD95, on the other hand, has been shown to induce apoptosis. We therefore investigated the interaction between adhesion-mediated signals, Ig, CD40, and CD95. The spontaneous apoptosis of GC B cells was not further increased by adding anti-CD95. However, CD95 stimulation did result in apoptosis of GC B cells in the presence of anti-Ig or adhesion-mediated rescue signals, which indicates that CD95 expressed on GC B cells is functionally active. In contrast, anti-CD95 was unable to induce apoptosis in cells rescued via CD40 stimulation, suggesting an important role for CD40L expressed on GC T cells in apoptosis regulation. We also studied apoptosis of B cells adhering to FDC, and found that B cells that interact with FDC were also rescued from CD95-induced apoptosis. A human CD40.Fc mu fusion protein that blocks CD40 ligation failed to inhibit this effect. Our studies therefore indicate that neither CD40, Ig receptors, nor adhesion receptors mediate rescue from apoptosis by FDC.