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J. Cell Sci. 115 (23): 4671-4683


Research Article

Caspase-dependent initiation of apoptosis and necrosis by the Fas receptor in lymphoid cells: onset of necrosis is associated with delayed ceramide increase

Claudio A. Hetz1, Martin Hunn2, Patricio Rojas1, Vicente Torres1, Lisette Leyton1, and Andrew F. G. Quest1,*

1 Instituto de Ciencias Biomédicas, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile
2 Institute of Biochemistry, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

* Author for correspondence (e-mail:aquest{at}machi.med.uchile.cl)

Accepted for publication 4 September 2002.

Abstract: Engagement of the Fas receptor promotes apoptosis by activation of caspases. In addition, alterations in plasma membrane lipid orientation and intracellular ceramide levels are often observed. In A20 B-lymphoma cells, FasL-induced cell death and phosphatidylserine (PS) externalization were completely prevented by the generic caspase inhibitor z-VAD-fmk. By contrast, the caspase-3 inhibitor Ac-DEVD-cho only partially restored cell viability and had no effect on surface exposure of PS. Flow cytometric analysis after FasL treatment identified two populations of dead cells. In one, death was dependent on caspase-3 and paralleled by DNA fragmentation and cell shrinkage. In the second, death occurred in the absence of caspase-3 activity and apoptotic features but was also blocked by zVAD-fmk. By morphological criteria these were identified as apoptotic and necrotic cells, respectively. Using fluorescent substrates, caspase-3 activity was detected only in the apoptotic cell population, whereas caspase-8 activity was detected in both. Both forms of caspase-8-dependent cell death were also detected downstream of Fas in Jurkat T-cells, where Fas-dependent PS externalization and delayed ceramide production, which is similar to results shown here in A20 cells, have been reported. However, for Raji B-cells, lacking lipid scrambling and ceramide production in response to Fas activation, only apoptosis was detected. Short-chain C2- or C6-ceramides, but not the respective inactive dihydro compounds or treatment with bacterial sphingomyelinase, induced predominantly necrotic rather than apoptotic cell death in A20 B-, Raji B- and Jurkat T-cells. Thus, delayed elevation of ceramide is proposed to promote necrosis in those Fas-stimulated cells where caspase-8 activation was insufficient to trigger caspase-3-dependent apoptosis.

Key Words: Lymphoid cells • Fas • Apoptosis • Necrosis • Caspases • Ceramide


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