Fas ligand (FasL) is a type II transmembrane protein that belongs to the tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family. The binding of Fas ligand with its receptor induces apoptosis. Fas ligand-receptor interactions play an important role in the regulation of the immune system and the progression of cancer.
Fas ligand or FasL is a type II transmembrane protein. Fas ligand is a homotrimeric protein and signals through trimerization of FasR, which spans the membrane of the "target" cell. This trimerization usually leads to apoptosis, or cell death.
Soluble Fas ligand is generated by cleaving membrane-bound FasL at a conserved cleavage site by the external serine matrix metalloproteinase MMP-7. Soluble FasL is less active than their membrane-bound counterparts and do not induce receptor trimerization and DISC formation.
Fas forms the Death Inducing Signalling Complex (DISC) upon ligand binding. Membrane-anchored Fas ligand trimer on the surface of an adjacent cell causes trimerization of Fas receptor. This event is also mimicked by binding of an agonistic Fas antibody, though some evidence suggests that the apoptotic signal induced by the antibody is unreliable in the study of Fas signaling. To this end, several clever ways of trimerizing the antibody for in vitro research have been employed. Upon ensuing DD aggregation, the receptor complex is internalized via the cellular endosomal machinery. This allows the adaptor molecule FADD to bind the death domain of Fas through its own death domain. FADD also contains a death effector domain (DED) near its amino terminus, which facilitates binding to the DED of FADD-like ICE (FLICE), more commonly referred to as caspase-8. FLICE can then self-activate through proteolytic cleavage into p10 and p18 subunits, two each of which form the active heterotetramer enzyme. Active caspase-8 is then released from the DISC into the cytosol, where it cleaves other effector caspases, eventually leading to DNA degradation, membrane blebbing, and other hallmarks of apoptosis.
Some reports have suggested that the extrinsic Fas pathway is sufficient to induce complete apoptosis in certain cell types through DISC assembly and subsequent caspase-8 activation. These cells are dubbed Type 1 cells and are characterized by the inability of anti-apoptotic members of the Bcl-2 family (namely Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL) to protect from Fas-mediated apoptosis. Characterized Type 1 cells include H9, CH1, SKW6.4 and SW480, all of which are lymphocyte lineages except the latter, which is a colon adenocarcinoma lineage. However, evidence for crosstalk between the extrinsic and intrinsic pathways exists in the Fas signal cascade. In most cell types, caspase-8 catalyzes the cleavage of the pro-apoptotic BH3-only protein Bid into its truncated form, tBid. BH-3 only members of the Bcl-2 family exclusively engage anti-apoptotic members of the family (Bcl-2, Bcl-xL), allowing Bak and Bax to translocate to the outer mitochondrial membrane, thus permeabilizing it and facilitating release of pro-apoptotic proteins such as cytochrome c and Smac/DIABLO, an antagonist of inhibitors of apoptosis proteins (IAPs).
Defective Fas mediated apoptosis may lead to oncogenesis as well as drug resistance in existing tumors. Germline mutation of Fas is associated with autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome (ALPS), a childhood disorder of apoptosis