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Am J Pathol. 2005 Apr;166(4):1099-108.

The contribution of the Fas/FasL apoptotic pathway in ulcer formation during Leishmania major-induced cutaneous Leishmaniasis.

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Microbiology and Tumor Biology Center, Karolinska Institutet, Box 280, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden.


Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL), caused by the intracellular protozoan Leishmania major, is characterized by lesion formation and ulceration at the site of infection. The mechanism of ulcer formation during CL is not fully understood. The expression of Fas and FasL and the levels of apoptosis in skin biopsies and in restimulated blood mononuclear cells from patients with 1 to 7 months of L. major-induced CL were analyzed using immunohistochemistry and fluorescence-activated cell sorting analysis. The levels of soluble Fas and FasL were also analyzed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. A substantial number of apoptotic keratinocytes were observed mainly in the superficial epidermis of morphologically active and healing CL skin samples. Fas expression was increased on epidermis in active CL, whereas Fas expression was similar in healing and healthy epidermis. FasL-expressing macrophages and T cells were found in subepidermal infiltrate, mainly in active disease. When CL peripheral blood mononuclear cells were restimulated with L. major, Fas was up-regulated on effector T cells, and high levels of sFasL were secreted. Supernatants from restimulated cultures induced apoptosis in human keratinocytes (HaCaT), possibly through Fas/FasL interactions. Our results indicate that FasL-expressing effector T cells and macrophages may act to induce apoptosis and ulcer formation in Fas-expressing keratinocytes during L. major infection.

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