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Constitutive resistance to cell death induced by inflammatory stimuli activating the extrinsic pathway of apoptosis is a key feature of vascular endothelial cells (ECs). Although this property is central to the maintenance of the endothelial barrier during inflammation, the molecular mechanisms of EC protection from cell-extrinsic, proapoptotic stimuli have not been investigated. We show that the Ig-family member CD31, which is expressed by endothelial but not epithelial cells, is necessary to prevent EC death induced by TNF-α and cytotoxic T lymphocytes in vitro. Combined quantitative RT-PCR array and biochemical analysis show that, upon the engagement of the TNF receptor with TNF-α on ECs, CD31 becomes activated and, in turn, counteracts the proapoptotic transcriptional program induced by TNF-α via activation of the Erk/Akt pathway. Specifically, Akt activation by CD31 signals prevents the localization of the forkhead transcription factor FoxO3 to the nucleus, thus inhibiting transcription of the proapoptotic genes CD95/Fas and caspase 7 and de-repressing the expression of the antiapoptotic gene cFlar. Both CD31 intracellular immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibition motifs are required for its prosurvival function. In vivo, CD31 gene transfer is sufficient to recapitulate the cytoprotective mechanisms in CD31(-) pancreatic β cells, which become resistant to immune-mediated rejection when grafted in fully allogeneic recipients.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





E5815 - E5824


endothelium, immunology, inflammation, lymphocytes, transplantation, Animals, Endothelium, Vascular, Mice, Mice, Knockout, Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1, T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha