Sensitivity to Fas-mediated apoptosis in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia is associated with a mutant p53 phenotype and absence of Bcl-2 expression

M. Zhou, L. Gu, A. M. Yeager, H. W. Findley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Fas (APO-1/CD95) is a cell-surface protein that can mediate apoptosis upon specific ligand or antibody binding. The Bcl-2 protein may function as a modulator of Fas-induced apoptosis by blocking a downstream activation step, and Bcl-2 expression in acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) cells appears to depend partly on expression of a wild-type (wt) p53 tumor suppressor gene. We therefore investigated the relationship between sensitivity to Fas-mediated apoptosis and (1) Fas expression, (2) p53 status, and (3) Bcl-2 protein levels in pediatric ALL cell lines and primary leukemic cells. Cell lines included 21 B cell precursor (BCP)-ALL and four T-ALL lines; in five cases, cryopreserved primary leukemic cells from which these lines were established were also examined. Additionally, we evaluated the effect of anti-pas monoclonal antibody on the activation of protease CPP32 and induction of apoptosis in these lines. By SSCP analysis and DNA sequencing, we detected p53 mutations (mt) in eight out of 25 ALL cell lines (exon-7, codon 248 n = 6; exon-8, codon 273, n = 2). The expression of Fas and Bcl-2 was examined by immunofluorescence staining and quantified as the number of molecules of equivalent soluble fluorochrome (MESF). Elevated levels of Fas were expressed in all six lines with a mutation of p53 in codon 248 (1500 to 10,800 MESF). Although Fas was detectable in seven of the 17 lines with wt-p53, expression was lower (150-900 MESF) compared with mt-p53+ lines. Bcl-2 was expressed in 10 of the 25 lines. Most (9/10) wt-p53+ lines expressed Bcl-2, whereas only one of eight mt-p53+ lines and no p53-null lines expressed this protein. Treatment of Fas-positive lines with anti-Fas monoclonal antibody (200 ng/ml) for 6 h induced activation of CPP32 and apoptosis in eight of 13 Fas+ lines. Sensitivity to Fas-mediated apoptosis was associated with a mt-p53 phenotype and absence of Bcl-2 expression. Six of eight Fas+/Fas-sensitive (S) lines were mt-53+/Bcl-2-, whereas only two Fas+/Fas-S lines were wt-p53+/Bcl-2+; both of these latter lines expressed low levels of Bcl-2 compared to Fas-resistant lines. In contrast, four of five Fas+/Fas-resistant (R) lines were wt-p53+/Bcl-2+; the exception was p53-null/Bcl-2- but expressed a low level of Fas (150 MESF). Activation of the cysteine protease CPP32 and cleavage of its substrate poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase (PARP) was also detected in Fas-S but not Fas-R lines. We obtained similar results from both the primary leukemic cells and the corresponding cell lines in five cases: overexpression of Fas and Fas-sensitivity were present in mt-p53+/Bcl-2- but not wt-p53+/Bcl-2+ cells. These results suggest that some pediatric ALL cells expressing mt-p53+ may be sensitive to Fas-mediated apoptosis due to high levels of Fas expression and lack of Bcl-2, and further suggest that molecular methods of activating Fas may be useful for therapy of refractory ALL with the Fas+/mt-p53+ phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1756-1763
Number of pages8
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1998


  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • Apoptosis
  • Bcl-2
  • Fas
  • p53

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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