The cell surface receptor Fas (FasR, Apo-1, CD95) and its ligand (FasL) are mediators of apoptosis that have been shown to be implicated in the peripheral deletion of autoimmune cells, activation-induced T cell death, and one of the two major cytolytic pathways mediated by CD8+ cytolytic T cells. To gain further understanding of the Fas system., we have analyzed Fas and FasL expression during mouse development and in adult tissues. In developing mouse embryos, from 16.5 d onwards, Fas mRNA is detectable in distinct cell types of the developing sinus, thymus, lung, and liver, whereas FasL expression is restricted to submaxillary gland epithelial cells and the developing nervous system. Significant Fas and FasL expression were observed in several nonlymphoid cell types during embryogenesis, and generally Fas and FasL expression were not localized to characteristic sites of programmed cell death. In the adult mouse, RNase protection analysis revealed very wide expression of both Fas and FasL. Several tissues, including the thymus, lung, spleen, small intestine, large intestine, seminal vesicle, prostate, and uterus, clearly coexpress the two genes. Most tissues constitutively coexpressing Fas and FasL in the adult mouse are characterized by apoptotic cell turnover, and many of those expressing FasL are known to be immune privileged. It may be, therefore, that the Fas system is implicated in both the regulation of physiological cell turnover and the protection of particular tissues against potential lymphocyte-mediated damage.

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