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J Biol Chem. 2000 Aug 25;275(34):26576-81.

Execution of apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1 (ASK1)-induced apoptosis by the mitochondria-dependent caspase activation.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cell Signaling, Department of Hard Tissue Engineering, Division of Bio-Matrix, the Maxillofacial Orthognathics, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Tokyo, Japan.


ASK1 activates JNK and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinases and constitutes a pivotal signaling pathway in cytokine- and stress-induced apoptosis. However, little is known about the mechanism of how ASK1 executes apoptosis. Here we investigated the roles of caspases and mitochondria in ASK1-induced apoptosis. We found that benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp-fluoromethyl ketone (zVAD-fmk), a broad-spectrum caspase inhibitor, mostly inhibited ASK1-induced cell death, suggesting that caspases are required for ASK1-induced apoptosis. Overexpression of ASK1DeltaN, a constitutively active mutant of ASK1, induced cytochrome c release from mitochondria and activation of caspase-9 and caspase-3 but not of caspase-8-like proteases. Consistently, caspase-8-deficient (Casp8 (-/-)) cells were sensitive to ASK1-induced caspase-3 activation and apoptosis, suggesting that caspase-8 is dispensable for ASK1-induced apoptosis, whereas ASK1 failed to activate caspase-3 in caspase-9-dificient (Casp9 (-/-)) cells. Moreover, mitochondrial cytochrome c release, which was not inhibited by zVAD-fmk, preceded the onset of caspase-3 activation and cell death induced by ASK1. ASK1 thus appears to execute apoptosis mainly by the mitochondria-dependent caspase activation.

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