Increased apoptosis in the bone marrow (BM) may contribute to the cytopenias that occur in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). The Fas receptor, Fas ligand (FasL) pathway is a major mechanism of apoptosis. Since hematopoietic progenitors can express the Fas receptor, they may be susceptible to apoptosis induced by FasL-expressing cells. We examined FasL expression in the BM of patients with MDS (n = 50), de novo acute myeloid leukemia (AML; n = 10), AML following prior MDS (n = 6), and normal controls (n = 6). Compared to controls, FasL expression was increased in MDS, and was highest in AML. In MDS, FasL expression was seen in myeloid blasts, erythroblasts, maturing myeloid cells, megakaryocytes and dysplastic cells, whereas in AML, intense expression was seen in the blasts. FasL expression correlated with the FAB subtype groups of MDS, and also correlated directly with the percentage of abnormal metaphases on cytogenetic analysis. The FasL expressed in MDS BM inhibited the growth of clonogenic hematopoietic progenitors. This inhibition could be blocked by a soluble recombinant FasFc protein. In MDS, FasL expression in the initial diagnostic BM was higher in patients who were more anemic, correlated directly with red cell transfusion requirements over the subsequent course of the disease, and was predictive of survival. These studies indicate that FasL expression in MDS is of prognostic significance, and suggest that pharmacological blockade of the Fas-FasL pathway may be of clinical benefit.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported in part by US Department of Veterans Affairs grants to PG and RAK and American Cancer Society grant IRG-58-001-40-IRG-14 to PG. The authors acknowledge the excellent technical help of Joseph Brazil, Joanne Kappel and Sandra Frizelle, and of the Biomedical Imaging and Processing Laboratory (University of Minnesota).
- Acute myeloid leukemia
- Fas ligand
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Prognostic factors