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Oncogene. 2000 Feb 24;19(9):1181-90.

Differential role of caspase-8 and BID activation during radiation- and CD95-induced apoptosis.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Tuebingen, Hoppe Seyler Str. 3, D-72076 Tuebingen, Germany.


Activation of the CD95 death receptor as well as ionizing radiation induces apoptotic cell death in human lymphoma cells. The activation of caspases is a hallmark of apoptosis induction irrespective of the apoptotic trigger. In contrast to death receptor signaling, the exact mechanisms of radiation-induced caspase activation are not well understood. We provide evidence that both, radiation and CD95 stimulation, induce the rapid activation of caspase-8 and BID followed by apoptosis in Jurkat T-cells. To analyse the relative position of caspase-8 within the apoptotic cascade we studied caspase activation and apoptosis in Jurkat cells overexpressing Bcl-2 or Bcl-xL. Caspase-8 activation, pro-apoptotic BID cleavage and apoptosis in response to radiation were abrogated in these cells, while the responses to CD95 stimulation were only partially attenuated by overexpression of Bcl-2 family members. In parallel, the breakdown of the mitochondrial transmembrane potential (DeltaPsim) in response to radiation was inhibited by overexpression of Bcl-2/Bcl-xL Jurkat cells genetically deficient for caspase-8 were found to be completely resistant towards CD95. However, radiation-induced apoptotic responses in caspase-8-negative cells displayed only a modest reduction. We conclude that ionizing radiation activates caspase-8 and BID downstream of mitochondrial damage suggesting that, in contrast to CD95, both events function as executioners rather than initiators of the apoptotic process.

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