Transcriptional regulation of the human Fas (CD95) promoter

Henry Him Lei Chan, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The coordination of the apoptotic program necessitates the timely expression of sensor, effector, and mediator molecules. Fas/CD95, a transmembrane receptor which tethers the cell-death machinery, triggers apoptosis to maintain immune homeostasis, tolerance, and surveillance. Dysregulation in Fas-mediated apoptosis, either from disproportionate expression or disruptions in the downstream signaling pathway, manifests in autoimmune disorders and certain malignant progression. In this project, the transcriptional requirements underlying two modulators of Fas expression were investigated. In T-lymphocytes, activation results in potent Fas upregulation followed by an acquisition of sensitivity towards FasL-mediated apoptosis. Human fas promoter cloning and analysis have identified a cis-element critical for inducible Fas expression. EMSA studies using this region demonstrated a constitutive association with the transcription factor Sp1 and inducible NF-κB binding in response to activation. These interactions were mutually exclusive, as the rB/Sp1 element bound with recombinant Sp1 was readily displaced by increasing amounts of NF-κB p50. Thus, Fas upregulation by T-cell activation stimuli is dependent upon NF-κB binding at the fas promoter. The capacity of Sp1 to direct basal Fas expression was examined through mutagenesis of several GC-rich regions within the core fas promoter. Reporter analysis of single or combinatorial mutant GC-box constructs revealed usage of a particular GC-element in moderating over 50% of basal fas transcription. Inducible expression was Sp1-independent, however, since activated Jurkat cells containing fas Sp1-mutant constructs retained equivalent reporter induction. Overall, a dual-level of transcriptional control exists in fas, where constitutive activity is monitored through Sp1 binding, whereas T-cell activation obligates NF κB transactivation. In response to genotoxic damage, p53 modulates Fas levels partly by a transcription-dependent mechanism. Reconstitution of wild-type p53 in the hepatoma cell line Hep3B readily induced Fas transcription. Furthermore, fas promoter analysis identified an undescribed p53 responsive element which, when deleted, ablated p53-mediated reporter activity. Therefore, the pro-apoptotic function mediated by p53 is driven partially through the enhancement of Fas expression. Altogether, events elicting Fas transcription may invoke single or overlapping mechanisms that converge at the level of promoter activity. Agents that enhance or attenuate these pathways may be therapeutically beneficial in modulating the expression and sensitivity towards Fas-dependent apoptosis.

Subject Area

Immunology|Molecular biology|Cellular biology

Recommended Citation

Chan, Henry Him Lei, "Transcriptional regulation of the human Fas (CD95) promoter" (1999). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9929373.