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Cardiovasc Res. 2001 Sep;51(4):749-61.

Fas ligand/Fas-mediated apoptosis in human coronary artery smooth muscle cells: therapeutic implications of fratricidal mode of action.

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  • 1Genzyme Corporation, 31 New York Avenue, Framingham, MA 01701, USA.



This study aimed to determine the mode of action of Fas ligand (FasL)/Fas at mediating apoptosis so as to evaluate the potential of FasL in gene therapy for restenosis.


Passaged human coronary artery smooth muscle (HCASM) cells were infected with recombinant adenoviral vectors expressing murine FasL. Various parameters of FasL expression and apoptosis were measured using FACS, immunofluorescence, calorimetric, and cytotoxicity assays.


Most HCASM cells under normal growth conditions expressed Fas and were shown to be susceptible to membrane bound but not soluble FasL. However, some FasL expressing cells survived for up to 7 days. These surviving cells were observed to be spatially distributed and were not in direct physical contact with each other. Upon examination, it was determined that although the majority of the surviving cells expressed FasL, only 30% expressed both Fas and FasL. These cells were capable of inducing apoptosis of target cells and some were also susceptible to FasL expressing cells, provided that the effector and target cells were in close physical contact. FasL/Fas-mediated apoptosis was inhibited by p35, a baculovirus gene that inhibits caspases. Additionally, in contrast to HCASM cells, neither membrane-bound nor soluble FasL induced apoptosis in coronary artery endothelial cells.


FasL expressing HCASM cells do not undergo FasL/Fas mediated "suicide" but kill neighboring cells bearing Fas in a "fratricidal" manner. A small population of HCASM cells expresses no surface Fas. These results imply that HCASM cells transduced in vivo with FasL may serve as "scavengers" and exert a bystander effect on surrounding cells that may be enhanced by co-expression of p35. As FasL-mediated apoptosis occurs in coronary arterial smooth muscle but not endothelial cells, FasL may also offer an advantage over other genes for use in restenosis since the latter may indiscriminately delay re-endothelialization at the sites of gene.

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