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Mol Hum Reprod. 2004 Jan;10(1):33-41.

X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis (XIAP) confers human trophoblast cell resistance to Fas-mediated apoptosis.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut 06520, USA.


Apoptosis occurs in the placenta throughout gestation, with a greater frequency near term in comparison to the first trimester. The Fas/FasL system represents one of the main apoptotic pathways controlling placental apoptosis. Although first trimester trophoblast cells express both Fas and FasL, they are resistant to Fas-induced apoptosis. Therefore, trophoblast resistance to Fas-mediated apoptosis may be due to the inhibition of the pathway downstream of Fas stimulation. Expression levels of X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis (XIAP) were recently shown to decrease in third trimester placentas, correlating with an increase in placental apoptosis. As a potent caspase inhibitor, XIAP prevents the activation of caspase-9 through its BIR3 domain and caspase-3 activation via the linker-BIR2 domain. In the present study, high levels of the active form of XIAP were detected in first trimester trophoblast cells, whereas term placental tissue samples predominantly expressed the inactive form of XIAP. Using a XIAP inhibitor, phenoxodiol, we demonstrate that XIAP inactivation sensitizes trophoblast cells to Fas stimulation, as evidenced by the anti-Fas mAb-induced decrease in trophoblast cell viability and increase in caspase-8, caspase-9 and caspase-3 activation. This suggests a functional role for XIAP in the regulation of the Fas apoptotic cascade in trophoblast cells during pregnancy.

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