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Cell Cycle. 2006 Jan;5(1):31-4. Epub 2006 Jan 18.

2:1 Stoichiometry of the CED-4-CED-9 complex and the tetrameric CED-4: insights into the regulation of CED-3 activation.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Lewis Thomas Laboratory, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA.


Four evolutionally conserved proteins -EGL-1, CED-9, CED-4 and CED-3- collectively control the initiation of programmed cell death (PCD) in Caenorhabditis elegans. Activation of CED-3, the cell killing caspase, requires CED-4. The pro-death function of CED-4 is inhibited by the mitochondria-bound CED-9. Crystal structure of the 150-kDa CED-4-CED-9 complex at 2.6 A resolution reveals a 2:1 stoichiometry between CED-4 and CED-9. EGL-1 binding to CED-9 results in the dissociation of CED-4 from the CED-4-CED-9 complex. The freed CED-4 dimer further dimerizes to form a tetramer. Only the CED-4 tetramer, but not dimer or monomer, is capable of activating CED-3. Thus, CED-9 inhibits CED-4-mediated activation of CED-3 by sequestering CED-4 dimer from further dimerization. On the basis of structural and biochemical analyses, working models are proposed to explain the mechanism by which CED-4 facilitates CED-3 activation.

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