Dendritic cells (DC) are cells of the hematopoietic system specialized in capturing antigens and initiating T cell-mediated immune responses. We show here that human DC generated from adherent peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) after in vitro stimulation with granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and interleukin-4 (IL-4) express Fas antigen (APO-1, CD95) and can undergo apoptosis upon triggering of Fas by monoclonal antibodies. Immature monocytes-derived dendritic cells (MDDC) upregulate CD86 and HLA-DR expression and develop dendrites and veiled processes. Flow cytometry analysis revealed CD95 expression in approx. 40% of these MDDC and incubation with anti-CD95 mAb (0.5μg/ml) induced apoptosis when compared to untreated controls. The extent of apoptosis induced by the agonist anti-Fas antibody strongly related to the percentage of cells expressing CD 95. Upon tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) additional stimulation, MDDC assumed a characteristic mature dendritic cells morphology showing prolonged veils, CD83 expression, and high levels of HLA-DR. These cells have downregulated their Fas receptors (to approx. 20%) and undergo apoptosis to a lesser extent when treated with anti-CD 95, as demonstrated by the hardly noticeable effect of this antibody on the viability of cultured cells as compared to controls. Thus, upon TNF-α induced maturation, MDDC became resistant to Fas-induced apoptosis. The apoptotic episodes surrounding the earlier stage of DC differentiation appeared to be mediated by Fas. In contrast, a Fas independent pathway is probably responsible for the apoptotic events associated with terminally differentiated DC.