Acinar regression in chronic pancreatitis may be due to immune attack in parenchymal areas neoexpressing HLA-DR molecules. CD4+Th1 cytotoxic T cells induce apoptosis of their targets via oligomerizing CD95 (APO-1/Fas) death receptors on target cells by their CD95 ligand (CD95L). We determined the expression of CD95 and CD95L in epithelia of normal and chronically inflamed pancreatic tissues. We applied RT-PCR and Western blotting for CD95L expression profiles, serial frozen section immunohistochemistry to detect CD95, CD95L, and HLA-DR molecules, CD3, CD4, CD11c, and S-100 protein (S100p). Normal pancreases and chronic pancreatitis contain CD95L message and protein. Immunohistochemistry revealed a mutually exclusive expression of CD95 and CD95L. Physiologically, acini were CD95-/CD95L+, ducts were CD95-/CD95L-, and islets were CD95-/CD95L+. In areas of lymphohistiocytic infiltration, mainly consisting of CD3+CD4+ T cells and CD11c+, CD4+/-, S100p+ interstitial dendritic cells, and in areas of initial fibrosis, acini and ducts were HLA-DR+, acini CD95+/CD95L-, and ducts CD95+/CD95L-. Islet cells were CD95-/CD95L+ in both conditions. IFNγ, levels in protein lysates, as measured by an immunoassay, were significantly higher in chronic pancreatitis than in normal pancreas (p < 0.0003). In vitro, IFNγ, down-modulated CD95L message and protein in ASPC1 and BxPc3 pancreatic carcinoma cells. In conclusion, pancreatic epithelia differentially express CD95 and CD95L in a mutually exclusive manner. In chronic pancreatitis the CD95-/CD95L+ status is conserved in islet cells even in the vicinity of lymphohistiocytic infiltrates, whereas it is lost in acini coexpressing HLA-DR. As a potential consequence, and possibly triggered by local release of IFNγ, CD4+Th1 cells may cognately interact with and successfully attack exocrine cells by triggering CD95 on their target without being killed by epithelial, CD95L-mediated, counterattack.