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Immunity. 1999 Dec;11(6):763-70.

Autoimmunity as a consequence of retrovirus-mediated expression of C-FLIP in lymphocytes.

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Department of Biology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena 91125, USA.


The induction of apoptosis by death receptors serves to regulate immune responses by eliminating unwanted and harmful cells. Mature lymphocytes express FLICE inhibitory proteins (FLIPs) that block death receptor-induced cell death. Here, we show that both B and T cells downregulate c-FLIP upon activation in vitro. Retrovirus-mediated expression of c-FLIP blocks Fas-induced apoptosis of activated lymphocytes but does not affect cell death resulting from cytokine withdrawal. In vivo, c-FLIP expression results in defective superantigen-mediated elimination of T cells, the accumulation of activated B cells, the production of autoantibodies, and the development of autoimmune disease. No effect was seen on negative selection of thyomocytes. These results suggest that activation-dependent downregulation of c-FLIP renders mature lymphocytes sensitive to death receptor-mediated apoptosis and is required to maintain self-tolerance.

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