Functional Fas expression in human thymic epithelial cells

Nathalie Moulian*, Claire Renvoizé, Colette Desodt, Alain Serraf, Sonia Berrih-Aknin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fas, a cell surface receptor, can induce apoptosis after cross-linking with its ligand. We report that Fas antigen is constitutively expressed in medullary epithelial cells of the human thymus. Expression is decreased in cultured thymic epithelial cells (TEC), similarly to HLA-DR antigen. TEC are resistant to anti-Fas-induced apoptosis after 4 days of primary culture, and this resistance is reversed by concomitant addition of cycloheximide. Cycloheximide also downregulated the expression of Fas-associated phosphatase-1, which has been found to inhibit Fas-induced apoptosis. This phosphatase could be involved in the resistance to Fas-induced apoptosis observed on day 4 of TEC culture. When TEC were subcultured after 10 to 13 days of primary culture, exposure to interleukin-1-β, tumor necrosis factor- α, and interferon-γ alone or together, reinduced Fas mRNA and protein expression. In coculture with activated thymocytes, TEC also upregulated Fas protein expression. Cytokine-activated TEC became sensitive to apoptosis induced by an agonistic anti-Fas antibody. This apoptosis was inhibited by Z- VAD-fmk but not by Z-DEVD-fmk and DEVDase activity was slightly increased in Fas-stimulated TEC, suggesting that DEVDase activity is not sufficient to induce TEC apoptosis. Taken together, these data show that the Fas receptor is expressed in medullary epithelial cells of the human thymus and is able to induce apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2660-2670
Number of pages11
Issue number8
StatePublished - 15 Apr 1999


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