The Journal of experimental medicine

Defective Fas expression exacerbates neurotoxicity in a model of Parkinson's disease.

PMID 16129703


Fas (CD95), a member of the tumor necrosis factor-receptor superfamily, has been studied extensively as a death-inducing receptor in the immune system. However, Fas is also widely expressed in a number of other tissues, including in neurons. Here, we report that defects in the Fas/Fas ligand system unexpectedly render mice highly susceptible to neural degeneration in a model of Parkinson's disease. We found that Fas-deficient lymphoproliferative mice develop a dramatic phenotype resembling clinical Parkinson's disease, characterized by extensive nigrostriatal degeneration accompanied by tremor, hypokinesia, and loss of motor coordination, when treated with the neurotoxin 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) at a dose that causes no neural degeneration or behavioral impairment in WT mice. Mice with generalized lymphoproliferative disease, which express a mutated Fas ligand, display an intermediate phenotype between that of lymphoproliferative and WT mice. Moreover, Fas engagement directly protects neuronal cells from MPTP/1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium ion toxicity in vitro. Our data show that decreased Fas expression renders dopaminergic neurons highly susceptible to degeneration in response to a Parkinson-causing neurotoxin. These findings constitute the first evidence for a neuroprotective role for Fas in vivo.