• Constitutive expression of murine c-FLIPR causes autoimmunity in aged mice.

      Ewald, F; Annemann, M; Pils, M C; Plaza-Sirvent, C; Neff, F; Erck, C; Reinhold, D; Schmitz, I (2014)
      Death receptor-mediated apoptosis is a key mechanism for the control of immune responses and dysregulation of this pathway may lead to autoimmunity. Cellular FLICE-inhibitory proteins (c-FLIPs) are known as inhibitors of death receptor-mediated apoptosis. The only short murine c-FLIP splice variant is c-FLIPRaji (c-FLIPR). To investigate the functional role of c-FLIPR in the immune system, we used the vavFLIPR mouse model constitutively expressing murine c-FLIPR in all hematopoietic compartments. Lymphocytes from these mice are protected against CD95-mediated apoptosis and activation-induced cell death. Young vavFLIPR mice display normal lymphocyte compartments, but the lymphocyte populations alter with age. We identified reduced levels of T cells and slightly higher levels of B cells in 1-year-old vavFLIPR mice compared with wild-type (WT) littermates. Moreover, both B and T cells from aged vavFLIPR animals show activated phenotypes. Sera from 1-year-old WT and transgenic animals were analysed for anti-nuclear antibodies. Notably, elevated titres of these autoantibodies were detected in vavFLIPR sera. Furthermore, tissue damage in kidneys and lungs from aged vavFLIPR animals was observed, indicating that vavFLIPR mice develop a systemic lupus erythematosus-like phenotype with age. Taken together, these data suggest that c-FLIPR is an important modulator of apoptosis and enforced expression leads to autoimmunity.
    • The role of c-FLIP splice variants in urothelial tumours.

      Ewald, F; Ueffing, N; Brockmann, L; Hader, C; Telieps, T; Schuster, M; Schulz, W A; Schmitz, I; Institute of Molecular and Clinical Immunology, Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg and Department of Immune Control, Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, D-38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (2011)
      Deregulation of apoptosis is common in cancer and is often caused by overexpression of anti-apoptotic proteins in tumour cells. One important regulator of apoptosis is the cellular FLICE-inhibitory protein (c-FLIP), which is overexpressed, for example, in melanoma and Hodgkin's lymphoma cells. Here, we addressed the question whether deregulated c-FLIP expression in urothelial carcinoma impinges on the ability of death ligands to induce apoptosis. In particular, we investigated the role of the c-FLIP splice variants c-FLIP(long) (c-FLIP(L)) and c-FLIP(short) (c-FLIP(S)), which can have opposing functions. We observed diminished expression of the c-FLIP(L) isoform in urothelial carcinoma tissues as well as in established carcinoma cell lines compared with normal urothelial tissues and cells, whereas c-FLIP(S) was unchanged. Overexpression and RNA interference studies in urothelial cell lines nevertheless demonstrated that c-FLIP remained a crucial factor conferring resistance towards induction of apoptosis by death ligands CD95L and TRAIL. Isoform-specific RNA interference showed c-FLIP(L) to be of particular importance. Thus, urothelial carcinoma cells appear to fine-tune c-FLIP expression to a level sufficient for protection against activation of apoptosis by the extrinsic pathway. Therefore, targeting c-FLIP, and especially the c-FLIP(L) isoform, may facilitate apoptosis-based therapies of bladder cancer in otherwise resistant tumours.