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J Invest Dermatol. 2000 Aug;115(2):141-8.

Death receptors in cutaneous biology and disease.

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Department of Dermatology, Geneva University Medical School, Geneva, Switzerland.


Death receptors are a growing family of transmembrane proteins that can detect the presence of specific extracellular death signals and rapidly trigger cellular destruction by apoptosis. Expression and signaling by death receptors and their respective ligands is a tightly regulated process essential for key physiologic functions in a variety of organs, including the skin. Several death receptors and ligands, Fas and Fas ligand being the most important to date, are expressed in the skin and have proven to be essential in contributing to its functional integrity. Recent evidence has shown that Fas-induced keratinocyte apoptosis in response to ultraviolet light, prevents the accumulation of pro-carcinogenic p53 mutations by deleting ultraviolet-mutated keratinocytes. Further- more, there is strong evidence that dysregulation of Fas expression and/or signaling contributes to the pathogenesis of toxic epidermal necrolysis, acute cutaneous graft versus host disease, contact hypersensitivity and melanoma metastasis. With these new developments, strategies for modulating the function of death receptor signaling pathways have emerged and provided novel therapeutic possibilities. Specific blockade of Fas, for example with intravenous immunoglobulin preparations that contain specific anti-Fas antibodies, has shown great promise in the treatment of toxic epidermal necrolysis and may also be useful in the treatment acute graft versus host disease. Likewise, induction of death signaling by ultraviolet light can lead to hapten-specific tolerance, and gene transfer of Fas ligand to dendritic cells can be used to induce antigen specific tolerance by deleting antigen-specific T cells. Further developments in this field may have important clinical implications in cutaneous disease.

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