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J Cell Biol. 2002 Feb 4;156(3):531-42. Epub 2002 Jan 28.

FKHR-L1 can act as a critical effector of cell death induced by cytokine withdrawal: protein kinase B-enhanced cell survival through maintenance of mitochondrial integrity.

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  • 1Department of Pulmonary Diseases, University Medical Center, 3584 CX Utrecht, Netherlands.


Survival signals elicited by cytokines include the activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), which in turn promotes the activation of protein kinase B (PKB). Recently, PKB has been demonstrated to phosphorylate and inactivate forkhead transcription factor FKHR-L1, a potent inducer of apoptosis. To explore the mechanisms underlying the induction of apoptosis after cytokine withdrawal or FKHR-L1 activation, we used a cell line in which FKHR-L1 activity could be specifically induced. Both cytokine withdrawal and FKHR-L1 activation induced apoptosis, which was preceded by an upregulation in p27KIP1 and a concomitant decrease in cells entering the cell cycle. Induction of apoptosis by both cytokine withdrawal and activation of FKHR-L1 correlated with the disruption of mitochondrial membrane integrity and cytochrome c release. This was preceded by upregulation of the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family member Bim. Ectopic expression of an inhibitory mutant of FKHR-L1 substantially reduced the levels of apoptosis observed after cytokine withdrawal. Activation of PKB alone was sufficient to promote cell survival, as measured by maintenance of mitochondrial integrity and the resultant inhibition of effector caspases. Furthermore, hematopoietic stem cells isolated from Bim-/- mice exhibited reduced levels of apoptosis upon inhibition of PI3K/PKB signaling. These data demonstrate that activation of FKHR-L1 alone can recapitulate all known elements of the apoptotic program normally induced by cytokine withdrawal. Thus PI3K/PKB--mediated inhibition of this transcription factor likely provides an important mechanism by which survival factors act to prevent programmed cell death.

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