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EMBO J. 1999 Oct 15;18(20):5486-93.

Reaper-induced dissociation of a Scythe-sequestered cytochrome c-releasing activity.

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Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Duke University Medical Center, Box 3686, C366 LSRC, Research Drive, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Reaper is a potent apoptotic inducer critical for programmed cell death in the fly Drosophila melanogaster. While Reaper homologs from other species have not yet been reported, ectopic expression of Reaper in cells of vertebrate origin can also trigger apoptosis, suggesting that Reaper-responsive pathways are likely to be conserved. We recently reported that Reaper-induced mitochondrial cytochrome c release and caspase activation in a cell-free extract of Xenopus eggs requires the presence of a 150 kDa Reaper-binding protein, Scythe. We now show that Reaper binding to Scythe causes Scythe to release a sequestered apoptotic inducer. Upon release, the Scythe-sequestered factor(s) is sufficient to induce cytochrome c release from purified mitochondria. Moreover, addition of excess Scythe to egg extracts impedes Reaper-induced apoptosis, most likely through rebinding of the released factors. In addition to Reaper, Scythe binds two other Drosophila apoptotic regulators: Grim and Hid. Surprisingly, however, the region of Reaper which is detectably homologous to Grim and Hid is dispensable for Scythe binding.

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