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Oncogene. 2005 Feb 24;24(9):1552-62.

Apoptosis of hematopoietic cells induced by growth factor withdrawal is associated with caspase-9 mediated cleavage of Raf-1.

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  • 1Unit of Molecular Signal Transduction in Inflammation, Department for Molecular Biomedical Research, VIB-Ghent University, Technologiepark 927, B-9052 Ghent-Zwijnaarde, Belgium.


The Raf-1 serine/threonine kinase is a key protein that is implicated in the transmission of many growth and cell survival signals. In the present study we demonstrate that apoptosis of hematopoietic cells induced by IL-3-deprivation is associated with the cleavage of Raf-1, resulting in the separation of the N-terminal regulatory domain and the C-terminal kinase domain. Raf-1 cleavage specifically occurs upon triggering of the mitochondrial death pathway, and coincides with the activation of specific caspases. Moreover, Bcl-2 overexpression or treatment with the caspase inhibitor z-VAD.fmk completely prevented Raf-1 cleavage, whereas caspase inhibition by treatment of cells with Ac-DEVD.fmk or z-IETD.fmk, or CrmA overexpression had no effect. Furthermore, in vitro cleavage studies indicate that caspase-9, which is the apical protease in the mitochondrial death pathway, is able to cleave Raf-1 at position D279. Cell fractionation studies showed that the Raf-1 C-terminal fragment that is generated upon IL-3 withdrawal is localized predominantly to the mitochondria. In addition, constitutive expression of this C-terminal Raf-1 fragment fused to a mitochondrial targeting sequence in Ba/F3 pre-B cells significantly delays apoptosis induced by IL-3 withdrawal. These results suggest an important role for caspase-9 mediated cleavage of Raf-1 in the negative feedback regulation of hematopoietic cell apoptosis induced by growth factor withdrawal.

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