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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1999 May;103(5 Pt 1):729-38.

The role of Fas and related death receptors in autoimmune and other disease states.

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Laboratory of Immunology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Clinical Pathology Department, Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.


The Fas receptor, also known as APO-1 or CD95, has emerged as a key initiator of apoptotic programmed cell death in a variety of cell types. CD4(+) T cells are unique in their ability to commit "suicide" by stimulating their own Fas receptors with secreted or membrane-bound Fas ligand. This takes place in the setting of repeated stimulation with T-cell antigens and is thought to be a mechanism for controlling the expansion of T cells during viral infections and autoimmune disease states. T cells can also trigger apoptosis in B cells, macrophages, and other cell types through Fas ligand. These interactions negatively regulate the immune system but can also contribute to immunopathology, as occurs in Fas-mediated damage of target tissues in hepatitis and other organ-specific autoimmune diseases. The dual role of Fas in the immune response complicates the understanding of its role in disease states and may limit its potential as a therapeutic target. Despite the many roles of Fas in immunoregulation, findings in experimental mouse strains and human patients with genetic deficiencies in the Fas pathway have shown that the main result of disrupting this pathway in vivo is systemic autoimmunity and a predisposition toward lymphoid malignancies. The role of Fas in various cell types and the lessons we have learned from Fas-deficient patients with the autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome will be discussed.

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