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J Biol Chem. 2009 May 8;284(19):12772-82. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M807550200. Epub 2009 Mar 3.

The E3 ubiquitin ligase cIAP1 binds and ubiquitinates caspase-3 and -7 via unique mechanisms at distinct steps in their processing.

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  • 1Center for Molecular and Cellular Toxicology, Division of Pharmacology and Toxicology, College of Pharmacy, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


Inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) proteins are widely expressed throughout nature and suppress cell death under a variety of circumstances. X-linked IAP, the prototypical IAP in mammals, inhibits apoptosis largely through direct inhibition of the initiator caspase-9 and the effector caspase-3 and -7. Two additional IAP family members, cellular IAP1 (cIAP1) and cIAP2, were once thought to also inhibit caspases, but more recent studies have suggested otherwise. Here we demonstrate that cIAP1 does not significantly inhibit the proteolytic activities of effector caspases on fluorogenic or endogenous substrates. However, cIAP1 does bind to caspase-3 and -7 and does so, remarkably, at distinct steps prior to or following the removal of their prodomains, respectively. Indeed, cIAP1 bound to an exposed IAP-binding motif, AKPD, on the N terminus of the large subunit of fully mature caspase-7, whereas cIAP1 bound to partially processed caspase-3 in a manner that required its prodomain and cleavage between its large and small subunits but did not involve a classical IAP-binding motif. As a ubiquitin-protein isopeptide ligase, cIAP1 ubiquitinated caspase-3 and -7, concomitant with binding, in a reaction catalyzed by members of the UbcH5 subfamily (ubiquitin carrier protein/ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes), and in the case of caspase-3, differentially by UbcH8. Moreover, wild-type caspase-7 and a chimeric caspase-3 (bearing the AKPD motif) were degraded in vivo in a proteasome-dependent manner. Thus, cIAPs likely suppress apoptosis, at least in part, by facilitating the ubiquitination and turnover of active effector caspases in cells.

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