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J Biol Chem. 2000 Apr 14;275(15):10905-11.

Plakoglobin regulates the expression of the anti-apoptotic protein BCL-2.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, University of Alberta, Edmonton T6G 2H7, Alberta, Canada.


Plakoglobin is a cytoplasmic protein and a homologue of beta-catenin and Armadillo of Drosophila with similar adhesive and signaling functions. These proteins interact with cadherins to mediate cell-cell adhesion and associate with transcription factors to induce changes in the expression of genes involved in cell fate determination and proliferation. Unlike the relatively well characterized role of beta-catenin in cell proliferation via activation of c-MYC and cyclin D1 gene expression, the signaling function of plakoglobin in regulation of cell growth is undefined. Here, we show that high levels of plakoglobin expression in plakoglobin-deficient human SCC9 cells leads to uncontrolled growth and foci formation. Concurrent with the change in growth characteristics we observe a pronounced inhibition of apoptosis. This correlates with an induction of expression of BCL-2, a prototypic member of apoptosis-regulating proteins. The BCL-2 expression coincides with decreased proteolytic processing and activation of caspase-3, an executor of programmed cell death. Our data suggest that the growth regulatory function of plakoglobin is independent of its role in mediating cell-cell adhesion. These observations clearly implicate plakoglobin in pathways regulating cell growth and provide initial evidence of its role as a pivotal molecular link between pathways regulating cell adherence and cell death.

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