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J Biol Chem. 2013 Feb 1;288(5):2952-63. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.441063. Epub 2012 Dec 13.

Hyperactivation of the mammalian degenerin MDEG promotes caspase-8 activation and apoptosis.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794, USA.


Intracellular calcium overload plays a critical role in numerous pathological syndromes such as heart failure, brain ischemia, and stroke. Hyperactivation of the acid-sensing ion channels including degenerin/epithelial amiloride-sensitive sodium (DEG/ENaC) channels has been shown to elevate intracellular calcium and cause subsequent neuronal cell death that is independent of the canonical Egl-1/Ced-9/Ced-4/Ced-3 apoptotic pathway in Caenorhabditis elegans. In mammalian cells, hyperactivation of the DEG/ENaC channels can also lead to cell death, although the underlying mechanism remains largely unknown. Here, we use a tetracycline-inducible system to express the hyperactivation mutant of a mammalian DEG/ENaC channel protein, MDEG G430F, in murine kidney epithelial cells deficient in the key mitochondrial apoptotic proteins Bax and Bak. Remarkably, expression of MDEG G430F induces increased intracellular calcium, reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, and cell death. The MDEG G430F-induced cell death is blocked by the intracellular calcium chelator 1,2-bis(o-aminophenoxy)ethane-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid (acetoxymethyl ester), ROS scavengers, and the caspase inhibitor z-VAD-fmk (where z and fmk are benzyloxycarbonyl and fluoromethyl ketone). Mechanistically, the intracellular calcium overload and ROS increase lead to the inhibition of proteasomal and autophagic protein degradation, which promotes the accumulation of protein aggregates containing caspase-8 and subsequent caspase-8 activation. As protein aggregation upon the inhibition of proteasomal and autophagic degradation pathways is mediated by the ubiquitin-binding protein SQSTM1/p62 and the autophagy-related protein LC3, silencing of p62 and LC3 protects cells from MDEG G430F-induced cell death. Our results uncover a new mechanism of caspase-8-mediated apoptosis induced by intracellular calcium overload that is dependent on the autophagy-related proteins LC3 and p62 upon hyperactivation of DEG/ENaC channels.

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