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J Biol Chem. 2000 Sep 1;275(35):27205-11.

Disruption of the CED-9.CED-4 complex by EGL-1 is a critical step for programmed cell death in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Comprehensive Cancer Center and the The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the apoptotic machinery is composed of four basic elements: the caspase CED-3, the Apaf-1 homologue CED-4, and the Bcl-2 family members CED-9 and EGL-1. The ced-9(n1950) gain-of-function mutation prevents most, if not all, somatic cell deaths in C. elegans. It encodes a CED-9 protein with a glycine-to-glutamate substitution at position 169, which is located within the highly conserved Bcl-2 homology 1 domain. We performed biochemical analyses with the CED-9G169E protein to gain insight into the mechanism of programmed cell death. We find that CED-9G169E retains the ability to bind both EGL-1 and CED-4, although its affinity for EGL-1 is reduced. In contrast to the behavior of wild-type CED-9, the interaction between CED-9G169E and CED-4 is not disrupted by expression of EGL-1. Furthermore, CED-4 and CED-9G169E co-localizes with EGL-1 to the mitochondria in mammalian cells, and expression of EGL-1 does not induce translocation of CED-4 to the cytosol. Finally, the ability of EGL-1 to promote apoptosis is impaired by the replacement of wild-type CED-9 with CED-9G169E, and this effect is correlated with the inability of EGL-1 to induce the displacement of CED-4 from the CED-9.CED-4 complex. These studies suggest that the release of CED-4 from the CED-9.CED-4 complex is a necessary step for induction of programmed cell death in C. elegans.

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