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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2004 Oct;287(4):L730-42.

Fas/FasL-mediated apoptosis in perinatal murine lungs.

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  • 1Program of Fetal Medicine, Women and Infants Hospital, Providence, RI 02905, USA. mdepaepe@wihri.org


Postcanalicular lung development is characterized by a time-specific increase in alveolar epithelial type II cell apoptosis. We have previously demonstrated that, in fetal rabbits, developmental type II cell apoptosis coincides with transient upregulation of the cell death regulator Fas ligand (FasL). The aims of this study were 1) to determine the spatiotemporal patterns of pulmonary apoptosis and Fas/FasL gene expression in the murine model [embryonic day 17 (E17) through postnatal day 5 (P5)], and 2) to investigate the functional involvement of the Fas/FasL system by determining the effect of Fas activation and inhibition on perinatal pulmonary apoptosis. The apoptotic activity of alveolar epithelial type II cells, determined by combined TUNEL labeling and anti-surfactant protein B immunohistochemistry, showed a dramatic increase during the perinatal transition (type II cell apoptotic index <0.1% at E17, 1.5% at P1-P3, and 0.3% at P5). This timing of enhanced type II cell apoptosis coincided with a robust 14-fold increase in Fas mRNA and protein levels and a threefold increase in FasL protein levels; both Fas and FasL immunolocalized to type II and bronchial epithelial cells. In vitro and in vivo exposure of fetal and postnatal murine type II cells to anti-Fas antibody induced a fourfold increase in apoptotic activity that was prevented by administration of a broad-spectrum caspase inhibitor; the pulmonary apoptotic activity of Fas-deficient lpr mice remained unchanged. Conversely, administration of a caspase inhibitor to newborn mice (P1) resulted in marked diminution of pulmonary apoptotic activity. These combined findings strongly implicate the Fas/FasL system as a critical regulator of perinatal type II cell apoptosis. The developmental time dependence of apoptosis-related events in the murine model should facilitate investigations of the regulation of perinatal pulmonary apoptotic gene expression.

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