Expression of a dominant negative form of Daxx in vivo rescues motoneurons from Fas (CD95)-induced cell death.
Fas-induced death of motoneurons in vitro has been shown to involve two signaling cascades that act together to execute the death program: a Fas-Daxx-ASK-1-p38 kinase-nNOS branch, which controls transcriptional and post-translational events, and the second classical Fas-FADD-caspase-8 branch. To analyze the role of Daxx in the developmental motoneuron cell death, we studied Fas-dependent cell death in motoneurons from transgenic mice that overexpress a dominant-negative form of Daxx. Motoneurons purified from these transgenic mice are resistant to Fas-induced death. This protective effect is specific to Fas because ultraviolet irradiation-triggered death is not affected by the transgene. The Daxx and the FADD pathways work in parallel because only Daxx, but not FADD, is involved in the transcriptional control of neuronal nitric oxide synthase and nitric oxide production. Nevertheless, we do not observe involvement of Daxx in developmental motoneuronal cell death, as the pattern of naturally occurring programmed cell death in vivo is normal in transgenic mice overexpressing the dominant negative form of Daxx, suggesting that Daxx-independent pathways are used during development.