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EMBO J. 1995 Dec 1;14(23):5859-68.

Multiple pathways originate at the Fas/APO-1 (CD95) receptor: sequential involvement of phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C and acidic sphingomyelinase in the propagation of the apoptotic signal.

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Department of Experimental Medicine, University of L'Aquila, Italy.


The early signals generated following cross-linking of Fas/APO-1, a transmembrane receptor whose engagement by ligand results in apoptosis induction, were investigated in human HuT78 lymphoma cells. Fas/APO-1 cross-linking by mAbs resulted in membrane sphingomyelin hydrolysis and ceramide generation by the action of both neutral and acidic sphingomyelinases. Activation of a phosphatidylcholine-specific phospholipase C (PC-PLC) was also detected which appeared to be a requirement for subsequent acidic sphingomyelinase (aSMase) activation, since PC-PLC inhibitor D609 blocked Fas/APO-1-induced aSMase activation, but not Fas/APO-1-induced neutral sphingomyelinase (nSMase) activation. Fas/APO-1 cross-linking resulted also in ERK-2 activation and in phospholipase A2 (PLA2) induction, independently of the PC-PLC/aSMase pathway. Evidence for the existence of a pathway directly involved in apoptosis was obtained by selecting HuT78 mutant clones spontaneously expressing a newly identified death domain-defective Fas/APO-1 splice isoform which blocks Fas/APO-1 apoptotic signalling in a dominant negative fashion. Fas/APO-1 cross-linking in these clones fails to activate PC-PLC and aSMase, while nSMase, ERK-2 and PLA2 activates are induced. These results strongly suggest that a PC-PLC/aSMase pathway contributes directly to the propagation of Fas/APO-1-generated apoptotic signal in lymphoid cells.

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