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FASEB J. 2001 Nov;15(13):2345-54.

CD40 activation-induced, Fas-dependent apoptosis and NF-kappaB/AP-1 signaling in human intrahepatic biliary epithelial cells.

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The Liver Research Laboratories, MRC Centre for Immune Regulation, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham B15 2TH, UK.


Fas-mediated mechanisms of apoptosis are thought to be involved in the bile duct loss that characterizes diseases such as primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). We have previously shown that activation of CD40 on hepatocytes can amplify Fas-mediated apoptosis; in the present study, we investigated interactions between CD40 and Fas in biliary epithelial cells (BEC). We report that the bile ducts in PBC liver tissue frequently express increased levels of Fas, Fas ligand (FasL), and CD40 associated with apoptotic BEC. The portal mononuclear infiltrate contains CD40L+ve T cells and macrophages, thereby demonstrating a potential mechanism for CD40 engagement in vivo. Primary cultures of human BEC also expressed Fas, FasL, and CD40 but not CD40L protein or mRNA. Activation of CD40 on BEC using recombinant CD40L increased transcriptional expression of FasL and induced apoptosis, which was inhibited by neutralizing antibodies to either Fas or FasL. Thus, CD40-induced apoptosis of BEC is mediated through Fas/FasL. We then investigated the intracellular signals and transcription factors activated in BEC and found that NF-kappaB and AP-1 were both activated after CD40 ligation. Increased functional NF-kappaB was seen early after CD40 ligation, but returned to baseline levels after 4 h. In contrast, the rapid up-regulation of AP-1 was sustained over 24 h. This study provides further functional evidence of the ability of CD40 to induce Fas/FasL-dependent apoptosis of liver epithelial cells supporting the importance of cross-talk between tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor family members as an amplification step in apoptosis induction. Sustained activation of AP-1 in the absence of NF-kappaB signaling may be a critical factor in determining the outcome of CD40 engagement.

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