On the role and significance of Fas (Apo-1/CD95) ligand (FasL) expression in immune privileged tissues and cancer cells using multiple myeloma as a model

Leuk Lymphoma. 1998 Nov;31(5-6):477-90. doi: 10.3109/10428199809057607.


Our knowledge in immunology has been dramatically increased by several excellent investigations elucidating the role of the Fas (Apo-1/CD95) receptor/ligand (FasL) system in complex immunological processes such as the acquisition of self tolerance in T cells, progression of autoimmunity, clonal deletion of activated T cells, B-cell regulation and the establishment of "immune privileged" sites such as testis or retina. In addition to these regulatory immunological activities, Fas/FasL interaction was also shown to participate in active defense mechanisms of the host against infected or transformed cells thereby inducing apoptosis in target cells. However, the same mechanism seems also to be part of an escape strategy utilized by tumor cells in various neoplastic malignancies of both hematopoetic as also non-hematopoetic origin. We ourselves were able to demonstrate that neoplastic plasma cell lines, as well as native malignant myeloma cells constitutively express FasL mRNA and protein. The FasL molecule is functionally active and able to induce programmed cell death in Fas sensitive target T cells in vitro. These target T cells were protected from programmed cell death by preincubation of T cells with a Fas-blocking monoclonal antibody (mAb) or of myeloma cells with a FasL-neutralizing mAb. respectively. Furthermore, overexpression of the caspase inhibitor, cowpoxvirus protein CrmA, also protected target T cells from being killed by myeloma cells, identifying Fas/FasL mediated signaling as the effector pathway utilized by malignant plasma cells. Our observations strongly suggest the engagement of Fas/FasL interaction in the escape strategy of this malignancy. The molecular basis of this evasive mechanism differs in essential respects from those described in melanoma, lung cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, or astrocytoma, since downregulation of Fas or instrinsic insensitivity towards Fas-mediated signaling were not prerequisites for the occurrence of this phenomenon in Fas-sensitive multiple myeloma cell lines. However, myeloma cell lines resisted cocultivation with FasL-expressing target T cells in vitro. The aim of this review is to discuss the role of Fas/FasL interaction in the establishment of malignant disease, in the light of our findings on myeloma cells and also by drawing upon similar observations of other investigators on different kinds of tumor cells and cell lines and further to consider its possible relevance in formulating novel approaches to cancer therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Cytotoxicity, Immunologic
  • Fas Ligand Protein
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Immunotherapy
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / immunology
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Models, Immunological
  • Multiple Myeloma / immunology*
  • Multiple Myeloma / pathology
  • Neoplasm Proteins / immunology
  • Neoplasm Proteins / physiology
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / immunology
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Organ Specificity
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / physiology
  • Serpins / genetics
  • Serpins / physiology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / pathology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / pathology
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th1 Cells / pathology
  • Transfection
  • Transplantation Immunology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Viral Proteins / genetics
  • Viral Proteins / physiology
  • fas Receptor / immunology
  • fas Receptor / physiology*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • FASLG protein, human
  • Fas Ligand Protein
  • Fasl protein, mouse
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Serpins
  • Viral Proteins
  • fas Receptor
  • interleukin-1beta-converting enzyme inhibitor