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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Jul 22;94(15):8144-9.

Thymineless death in colon carcinoma cells is mediated via fas signaling.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Pharmacology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 332 North Lauderdale, Memphis, TN 38105, USA.


Fas is expressed constitutively in colonic epithelial cells and is also expressed in colon carcinomas and in cultured colon carcinoma cell lines. However, the potential role of Fas signaling in mediating apoptosis in cells of this type remains unknown. We have developed human colon carcinoma cell models deficient in thymidylate synthase that demonstrate acute (TS- cells) or delayed (Thy4 cells) apoptosis following DNA damage induced by thymineless stress. Complete protection of cells from acute apoptosis and prolongation of delayed apoptosis was obtained following exposure to the NOK-1 monoclonal antibody (inhibitory to Fas signaling) during the period of dThd deprivation. These results suggested that apoptosis induced by thymineless stress was regulated by autocrine signaling via Fas-FasL interactions. Fas expression was high in both TS- and Thy4 cells. However, FasL, undetectable in synchronous cultures, was up-regulated in TS- cells at 48 hr, when cells were undergoing acute apoptosis, and in Thy4 cells at 96 hr, correlating with the delayed onset of thymineless death. FasL expression also correlated with acute apoptosis induced in parental GC3/cl cells, commencing at 48 hr, following thymidylate synthase inhibition by 5-fluorouracil/leucovorin exposure. Fas-mediated apoptosis induced by the cytotoxic anti-Fas monoclonal antibody CH-11 was inhibited following adenoviral delivery of a Bcl-2 cDNA, and Bcl-2 also protected cells from acute apoptosis induced by dThd deprivation. Taken together, these data demonstrate a functional Fas system in these cultured colon carcinoma cell models, and they demonstrate that Fas-FasL interactions can link DNA damage induced by thymineless stress to the apoptotic machinery of colon carcinoma cells.

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