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Estrous cycle-dependent changes of Fas expression in the bovine corpus luteum: influence of keratin 8/18 intermediate filaments and cytokines

Alice Duncan1, Jennifer Forcina1, Alyssa Birt2 and David Townson1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Sciences, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, USA

2 Department of Dairy and Animal Science, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA

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Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology 2012, 10:90  doi:10.1186/1477-7827-10-90

Published: 31 October 2012



Fas expression and Fas-induced apoptosis are mechanisms attributed to the selective destruction of cells of the corpus luteum (CL) during luteal regression. In certain cell-types, sensitivity to these death-inducing mechanisms is due to the loss or cleavage of keratin-containing intermediate filaments. Specifically, keratin 8/18 (K8/K18) filaments are hypothesized to influence cell death in part by regulating Fas expression at the cell surface.


Here, Fas expression on bovine luteal cells was quantified by flow cytometry during the early (Day 5, postovulation) and late stages (Days 16–18, postovulation) of CL function, and the relationship between Fas expression, K8/K18 filament expression and cytokine-induced cell death in vitro was evaluated.


Both total and cell surface expression of Fas on luteal cells was greater for early versus late stage bovine CL (89% vs. 44% of cells for total Fas; 65% vs.18% of cells for cell surface Fas; respectively, P<0.05, n=6-9 CL/stage). A similar increase in the steady-state concentration of mRNA for Fas, as detected by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction, however, was not observed. Transient disruption of K8/K18 filaments in the luteal cells with acrylamide (5 mM), however, had no effect on the surface expression of Fas (P>0.05, n=4 CL/stage), despite evidence these conditions increased Fas expression on HepG2 cells (P<0.05, n= 3 expts). Exposure of the luteal cells to cytokines induced cell death (P<0.05) as expected, but there was no effect of K8/K18 filament disruption by acrylamide (P>0.05) or stage of CL (P>0.05, n= 4 CL/stage) on this outcome.


In conclusion, we rejected our null hypothesis that the cell surface expression of Fas does not differ between luteal cells of early and late stage CL. The results also did not support the idea that K8/K18 filaments influence the expression of Fas on the surface of bovine luteal cells. Potential downstream effects of these filaments on death signaling, however, remain a possibility. Importantly, the elevated expression of Fas observed on cells of early stage bovine CL compared to late stage bovine CL raises a provocative question concerning the physiological role(s) of Fas in the corpus luteum, particularly during early luteal development.

Apoptosis; Corpus Luteum; Cytokines; Cytoskeleton; Fas; Ovary