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J Biol Chem. 2000 Mar 17;275(11):7988-93.

A membrane-bound Fas decoy receptor expressed by human thymocytes.

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Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, University of California, San Francisco, California 94141-9100, USA.


Human thymocytes at several stages of maturation express Fas, yet resist apoptosis induction through its ligation. A proximal step in apoptotic signaling through Fas is implicated in this resistance, as these cells undergo normal levels of apoptosis induction after exposure to tumor necrosis factor-alpha. We studied the Fas receptors expressed in human thymocytes to search for mechanisms of receptor-mediated inhibition of Fas signaling in these cells. We describe here a unique, membrane-bound form of Fas receptor that contained a complete extracellular domain of Fas but that lacked a death domain due to alternative splicing of exon 7. This Fas decoy receptor (FDR) was shown to have nearly wild-type ability to bind native human Fas ligand and was expressed predominantly at the plasma membrane. Unlike soluble forms of Fas receptor, FDR dominantly inhibited apoptosis induction by Fas ligand in transfected human embryonic kidney cells. Titration of FDR in Fas-expressing cells suggests that FDR may operate through the formation of mixed receptor complexes. FDR also dominantly inhibited Fas-induced apoptosis in Jurkat T cells. In mixing experiments with wild-type Fas, FDR was capable of inhibiting death signaling at molar ratios less than 0.5, and this relative level of FDR:wild type message was observed in at least some thymocytes tested. The data suggest that Fas signal pathways in primary human cells may be regulated by expression of a membrane-bound decoy receptor, analogous to the regulation of tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis inducing ligand (TRAIL)-induced apoptosis by decoy receptors.

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