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Blood. 1999 Feb 1;93(3):796-803.

Apoptotic role of Fas/Fas ligand system in the regulation of erythropoiesis.

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Department of Hematology-Oncology, Istituto Superiore di Sanita', Rome, Italy.


The possible involvement of Fas and Fas ligand (FasL) in the regulation of erythropoiesis was evaluated. Immunohistochemistry of normal bone marrow specimens revealed that several immature erythroblasts undergo apoptosis in vivo. Analysis of bone marrow erythroblasts and purified progenitors undergoing unilineage erythroid differentiation showed that Fas is rapidly upregulated in early erythroblasts and expressed at high levels through terminal maturation. However, Fas crosslinking was effective only in less mature erythroblasts, particularly at basophilic level, where it induced apoptosis antagonized by high levels of erythropoietin (Epo). In contrast, FasL was selectively induced in late differentiating Fas-insensitive erythroblasts, mostly at the orthochromatic stage. FasL is functional in mature erythroblasts, as it was able to kill Fas-sensitive lymphoblast targets in a Fas-dependent manner. Importantly, FasL-bearing mature erythroblasts displayed a Fas-based cytotoxicity against immature erythroblasts, which was abrogated by high levels of Epo. These findings suggest the existence of a negative regulatory feedback between mature and immature erythroid cells, whereby the former cell population might exert a cytotoxic effect on the latter one in the erythroblastic island. Hypothetically, this negative feedback operates at low Epo levels to moderate the erythropoietic rate; however, it is gradually inhibited at increasing Epo concentrations coupled with enhanced erythrocyte production. Thus, the interaction of Fas and FasL may represent an apoptotic control mechanism for erythropoiesis, contributing to the regulation of red blood cell homeostasis.

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