Tumors escape immunological rejection by a diversity of mechanisms. In this report, we demonstrate that the colon cancer cell SW620 expresses functional Fas ligand (FasL), the triggering agent of Fas receptor (FasR)-mediated apoptosis within the immune system. FasL mRNA and cell surface FasL were detected in SW620 cells using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and immunohistochemical staining, respectively. We show that SW620 kills Jurkat T cells in a Fas-mediated manner. FasR-specific antisense oligonucleotide treatment, which transiently inhibited FasR expression, completely protected Jurkat cells from killing by SW620. FasL-specific antisense oligonucleotide treatment of SW620 inhibited its Jurkat-killing activity. FasL has recently been established as a mediator of immune privilege in mouse retina and testis. Our finding that colon cancer cells express functional FasL suggests it may play an analogous role in bestowing immune privilege on human tumors. HT29 and SW620 colon cancer cells were found to express FasR mRNA and cell surface FasR using RT-PCR and immunofluorescence flow cytometry, respectively. However, neither of these cells underwent apoptosis after treatment by the anti-FasR agonistic monoclonal antibody CH11. Our results therefore suggest a Fas counterattack model for immune escape in colon cancer, whereby the cancer cells resist Fas-mediated T cell cytotoxicity but express functional FasL, an apoptotic death signal to which activated T cells are inherently sensitive.

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