Resistance to Fas-mediated apoptosis in hematopoietic cancers interferes with the efficacy of currently available chemotherapy. Our prior studies of human herpesvirus 8 oncoprotein K1 showed that K1 binds to Fas and interferes with activation of Fas-mediated apoptotic signaling (

Wang, W, et al,
). Herpesvirus proteins often mimic host proteins or their functions, we thus searched for cellular proteins associated with inactive Fas in order to identify potential regulators of Fas signaling. We identified CD74, the invariant light chain of the major histocompatibility class II complex, associated exclusively with inactive/activation resistant Fas in B-cell lymphoma-derived BJAB cell line. Interestingly, overexpression of CD74 has been previously reported in ~ 90% of hematopoietic cancers and derived cell lines (
Stein, R, et al.,
Ciln Cancer Res.
), as well as in ~ 80% of non-small-cell lung carcinoma (
Ioachim, H.L.,
Am J Surg Pathol.
). The role of CD74 in carcinogenesis was thus suspected. Through siRNA suppression of CD74 expression in BJAB cells we have determined that CD74 positive cells are more resistant to agonistic antibody CH-11-induced Fas-mediated apoptosis then the CD74 siRNA transfected cells (38 ± 7.8 % vs. 54 ± 9.8 %; P = 0.045). In addition, a challenge with agonistic anti-Fas antibody showed a significant survival advantage of the mice expressing CD74 in their livers over the vector-transfected mice (83% vs. 0 %; P < 0.016). We have mapped domain of CD74 required for its association with Fas and for significant protection of mice to a membrane-proximal extracellular region of CD74. Treatment of BJAB cells for 24 hours with humanized anti-CD74 antibody (hLL1 + crosslinking antibody), FasL-Fc, or anti-Fas antibody CH-11 induced apoptosis in 19%, 25% and 13% of cells, respectively. Combination of hLL1+crosslinking antibody with FasL-Fc or CH-11 increased apoptosis to ~ 45% of cells in both cases (P < 0.01), while combination of FasL-Fc or CH-11 with hLL1 + irrelevant antibody had no significant effect on the extent of apoptosis. Our results support the idea of an endogenous regulatory system of Fas-mediated apoptosis that utilizes transmembrane proteins interacting with Fas. We anticipate that specific blocking of the CD74-Fas interaction will sensitize CD74 overexpressing cancer cells to Fas-mediated apoptosis and thus will lead to a more effective chemotherapy for hematopoietic cancers.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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