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J Biol Chem. 1998 Sep 11;273(37):23621-4.

Activation of caspase-1 in the nucleus requires nuclear translocation of pro-caspase-1 mediated by its prodomain.

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  • 1Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, The National University of Singapore, Singapore 117609, Republic of Singapore.


The interleukin-1beta-converting enzyme-like protease precursor, pro-caspase-1, has an N-terminal prodomain that is removed during cleavage activation of the protease. Here we show that tumor necrosis factor treatment of HeLa cells induced apoptosis without detectable proteolytic activation of caspase-1 in the cytosol. Instead, tumor necrosis factor induced the translocation of pro-caspase-1 to the nucleus where it was proteolytically activated, releasing the intact prodomain. We identified a nuclear localization signal in the prodomain, which was required for translocation of both pro-caspase-1 as well as its prodomain to the nucleus. Surprisingly, transfected MCF-7 carcinoma or embryonic kidney 293T cells expressing the prodomain alone underwent apoptosis. These results show that death signal-induced nuclear targeting is a novel activity of a caspase prodomain and indicate that caspase-1 and its prodomain may have hitherto unsuspected nuclear functions in apoptosis.

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