- Analysis of "knockout, knockin" mice that express a functional Fas Ligand molecule lacking the intracellular domain (2010)
- Fas Ligand (FasL; CD95L; CD178; TNSF6) is a 40 kDa glycosylated type II transmembrane protein with 279 aa in mice and 281 aa in humans that belongs to the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family. The extracellular domain (ECD) harbors a TNF homology domain, the receptor binding site, a motif for self assembly and trimerization, and several putative N-glycosylation and a metalloprotease cleavage site/s. The cytoplasmic tail of FasL is the longest of all TNFL family members and contains several conserved signaling motifs, such as a putative tandem Casein kinase I phosphorylation site, a unique proline-rich domain (PRD) and phosphorylatable tyrosine residues (Y7 in mice; Y7, Y9, Y13 in human). The FasL/Fas system is renowned for the potent induction of apoptosis in the receptor-bearing cell and is especially important for immune system functions. It is involved in the killing of target cells by natural killer (NK) and cytotoxic T cells, in the (self) elimination of effector cells following the proliferative phase of an immune response (activation-induced cell death; AICD), in the maintenance of immuneprivileged sites and in the induction and maintenance of peripheral tolerance. Owing to its potent pro-apoptotic signaling capacity and important functions, FasL expression and activity are tightly regulated at transcriptional and posttranscriptional levels and restricted to few cell types, such as immune effector cells and cells of immune-privileged sites. In contrast, Fas is expressed in a variety of tissues including lymphoid tissues, liver, heart, kidney, pancreas, brain and ovary. In addition to its pro-apoptotic function, the FasL/Fas system can also elicit nonapoptotic signals in the receptor-expressing cell. Among others, Fas-signaling exerts co-stimulatory functions in the immune system, e.g. by promoting survival, activation and proliferation of T cells. Besides the capacity to deliver a signal into receptor-bearing cells (‘forward signal’), FasL can receive and transmit signals into the ligand-expressing cell. This phenomenon has been described for several TNF family ligands and is known as ‘reverse signaling’. The first evidence for the existence of reverse signaling into FasL-bearing cells stems from two studies that demonstrated either co-stimulation of murine CD8+ T cell lines by FasL cross-linking or inhibition of activation-induced proliferation of murine CD4+ T cells. In both cases, the observed changes of proliferative behaviour critically depended on the presence of a signaling-competent FasL. Almost certainly, the FasL ICD is functionally involved in signal-transmission: (i) The ICD is highly conserved across species and harbors several signaling motifs, most notably a unique PRD. (ii) Numerous proteins have been identified which interact with the FasL PRD via their SH3 or WW domains and regulate various aspects of FasL biology, such as FasL sorting, storage, cell surface expression and the linkage of FasL to intracellular signaling pathways. (iii) Post-translational modifications of the ICD have been implicated in the sorting of FasL to vesicles and the FasL-dependent activation of Nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT). (iv) Proteolytic processing of FasL liberates the ICD and allows its translocation into the nucleus where it might influence gene transcription. (v) It could be shown that overexpression of the FasL ICD is sufficient to initiate reverse signaling upon concomitant T cell receptor (TCR) stimulation and ICD cross-linking. Conflicting data on the consequences of FasL reverse signaling exist, and costimulatory as well as inhibitory functions have been reported. These discrepancies probably reflect the use of artificial experimental systems. Neither the precise molecular mechanism underlying FasL reverse signaling, nor its physiological relevance have been addressed at the endogenous protein level in vivo. Therefore, a ‘knockout/knockin’ mouse model in which wildtype FasL was replaced with a deletion mutant lacking the intracellular portion (FasL Delta Intra) was established in the group of PD Dr. Martin Zörnig. In the present study, FasL Delta Intra mice were phenotypically characterized and were employed to investigate the physiological consequences of FasL reverse signaling at the molecular and cellular level. To ensure that FasL Delta Intra mice represent a suitable model to study the consequences of FasL reverse signaling, we demonstrated that activated lymphocytes from homozygous FasL Delta Intra or wildtype mice express comparable amounts of (truncated) FasL at the cell surface. The truncated protein retains the capacity to induce apoptosis in Fas receptor-positive target cells, as co-culture assays with FasL-expressing activated lymphocytes and Fas-sensitive target cells showed. Additionally, systematic screening of unchallenged mice did not reveal any phenotypic abnormalities. Notably, signs of a lymphoproliferative autoimmune disease associated with FasL-deficiency could not be detected. As several reports have implicated FasL reverse signaling in the regulation of T cell expansion and activation, proliferation of lymphocytes isolated from FasL Delta Intra and wildtype mice in response to antigen receptor stimulation was investigated. Using CFSE dilution assays it could be demonstrated that the proliferative response of CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells and of B cells was enhanced in the absence of the FasL ICD. Interestingly, this effect was most pronounced in B cells and could only be detected in CD4+ T cells after depletion of CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells. To our Summary knowledge, this is the first time that FasL reverse signaling has been demonstrated in B cells. In a series of experiments, the activation of several pathways that are known to play important roles in signal-transmission initiated upon antigen receptor triggering was assessed. As a molecular correlate for the observed enhancement of activation-induced proliferation, Extracellular signal regulated kinase (ERK1/2) phosphorylation was significantly increased in FasL Delta Intra mice following antigen receptor crosslinking. Surprisingly, B cell stimulation lead to a comparable extent of activating phosphorylations on S38 in c-Raf and S218/S222 in MEK1/2 in cells isolated from wildtype and FasL Delta Intra mice, indicating that Mitogen activated protein kinases (MAPKs) upstream of ERK1/2 (Raf-1 and MEK1/2) apparently do not contribute to the differential regulation of ERK1/2. Experiments in which activation-induced Akt phosphorylation (S473) was quantified also did not suggest a participation of Phosphoinositol specific kinase 3 (PI3K)/Akt signals in this process. Instead, further characterization of the upstream pathway revealed an involvement of Phospholipase C gamma (PLC gamma) and Protein kinase C (PKC) signals in FasL-dependent ERK1/2- regulation. Previous studies in our group revealed a Notch-like processing of FasL, resulting in the transcriptional regulation of a reporter gene. Furthermore, an interaction of the FasL ICD with the transcription factor Lymphoid-enhancer binding factor-1 (Lef-1) that affected Lef-1-dependent reporter gene transcription could be demonstrated. Therefore, a molecular analysis of activated lymphocytes was performed to identify FasL reverse signaling target genes. The differential expression of promising candidates was verified by quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR), which showed that the transcription of genes associated with lymphocyte proliferation and activation was increased in FasL Delta Intra mice compared to wildtype mice. Interestingly, an extensive regulation of Lef-1-dependent Wnt/beta-Catenin signalingrelated genes was found. Lef-1 mRNA (RT-PCR) and protein (intracellular FACS staining) could be detected in mature B cells, suggesting the possibility of FasL ICD-mediated inhibition of Lef-1-dependent gene expression in these cells, initiated by Notch-like processing of FasL. To investigate the consequences of FasL reverse signaling in vivo, a potential participation of the FasL ICD in the regulation of immune responses upon various challenges was analyzed. In experiments in which thymocyte proliferation or the expansion of antigen-specific T cells following a challenge with the superantigen Staphylococcus enterotoxin B (SEB), with Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) or with Listeria monocytogenes were investigated, comparable results were obtained with wildtype and FasL Delta Intra mice. Likewise, the recruitment of neutrophils in a thioglycollate-induced model of peritonitis was not affected by deletion of the FasL ICD. These findings might reflect regulatory mechanisms operating in vivo, such as control exerted by regulatory T cells. Along these lines, proliferative differences in CD4+ T cells could only be detected ex vivo after depletion of CD4+CD25+ regulatory T cells. Furthermore, several in vitro studies indicate that retrograde FasL signals can be observed under conditions of suboptimal lymphocyte stimulation, but not when the TCR is optimally stimulated. Therefore, the potent initiation of antigen receptor signaling by stimuli like SEB or LCMV might have masked inhibitory FasL reverse signaling in these experiments. In agreement with the observed hyperactivation of lymphocytes in the absence of the ICD ex vivo, the increase in germinal center B cells (GCs) following immunization with the hapten 3-hydroxy 4-nitrophenylacetyl (NP) and the number of antibody-secreting PCs was significantly higher in FasL Delta Intra mice. The larger quantity of PCs correlated with increased titers of NP-binding, i.e. antigen-specific, IgM and IgG1 antibodies in the serum of FasL Delta Intra mice after immunization. These data suggest that FasL reverse signaling exerts immunmodulatory functions. Supporting this notion, a model of Ovalbumin-induced allergic airway inflammation revealed an involvement of retrograde FasL-signals in the recruitment of immune effector cells into the lung and in the activation of T cells following exposure of mice to Ovalbumin. Together, our ex vivo and in vivo findings based on endogenous FasL protein levels demonstrate that FasL ICD-mediated reverse signaling is a negative modulator of certain immune responses. It is tempting to speculate that FasL reverse signaling might be a fine-tuning mechanism to prevent autoimmune diseases, a theory which will be tested in adequate mouse models in the future.
- Analysis of knockout/knockin mice that express a mutant FasL lacking the intracellular domain (2009)
- Fas ligand (FasL; CD178; CD95L) is a type II transmembrane protein belonging to the tumour necrosis factor family; its binding to the Fas receptor (CD95; APO-1) triggers apoptosis in the receptor-bearing cell. Signalling through this pathway plays a pivotal role during the immune response and in immune system homeostasis. Similar to other TNF family members, the intracellular domain has been reported to transmit signals to the inside of the FasL-bearing cell (reverse signalling). Recently, we identified the proteases ADAM10 and SPPL2a as molecules important for the processing of FasL. Protease cleavage releases the intracellular domain, which then is able to translocate to the nucleus and to repress reporter gene activity. To study the physiological importance of FasL reverse signalling in vivo, we established knockout/knockin mice with a FasL deletion mutant that lacks the intracellular portion (FasLDeltaIntra). Co-culture experiments confirmed that the truncated FasL protein is still capable of inducing apoptosis in Fas-sensitive cells. Preliminary immune histochemistry data suggest that, in contrast to published data, the absence of the intracellular FasL domain does not alter the intracellular FasL localization in activated T cells. We are currently investigating signalling and proliferative capacities of T cells derived from homozygous FasLDeltaIntra mice to validate a co-stimulatory role of FasL reverse signalling.