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Virology. 2000 Jan 20;266(2):352-60.

Poliovirus protease 3C(pro) kills cells by apoptosis.

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Centro de Biología Molecular (CSIC-UAM), Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Cantoblanco, Madrid, 28049, Spain.


The tetracycline-based Tet-Off expression system has been used to analyze the effects of poliovirus protease 3C(pro) on human cells. Stable HeLa cell clones that express this poliovirus protease under the control of an inducible, tightly regulated promoter were obtained. Tetracycline removal induces synthesis of 3C protease, followed by drastic morphological alterations and cellular death. Degradation of cellular DNA in nucleosomes and generation of apoptotic bodies are observed from the second day after 3C(pro) induction. The cleavage of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase, an enzyme involved in DNA repair, occurs after induction of 3C(pro), indicating caspase activation by this poliovirus protease. The 3C(pro)-induced apoptosis is blocked by the caspase inhibitor z-VAD-fmk. Our findings suggest that the protease 3C is responsible for triggering apoptosis in poliovirus-infected cells by a mechanism that involves caspase activation.

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