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J Biol Chem. 2000 Mar 24;275(12):8461-8.

Expression and functional analysis of Apaf-1 isoforms. Extra Wd-40 repeat is required for cytochrome c binding and regulated activation of procaspase-9.

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Department of Pathology, Comprehensive Cancer Center and Cellular and Molecular Biology Program, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


Apaf-1 is an important apoptotic signaling molecule that can activate procaspase-9 in a cytochrome c/dATP-dependent fashion. Alternative splicing can create an NH(2)-terminal 11-amino acid insert between the caspase recruitment domain and ATPase domains or an additional COOH-terminal WD-40 repeat. Recently, several Apaf-1 isoforms have been identified in tumor cell lines, but their expression in tissues and ability to activate procaspase-9 remain poorly characterized. We performed analysis of normal tissue mRNAs to examine the relative expression of the Apaf-1 forms and identified Apaf-1XL, containing both the NH(2)-terminal and COOH-terminal inserts, as the major RNA form expressed in all tissues tested. We also identified another expressed isoform, Apaf-1LN, containing the NH(2)-terminal insert, but lacking the additional WD-40 repeat. Functional analysis of all identified Apaf-1 isoforms demonstrated that only those with the additional WD-40 repeat activated procaspase 9 in vitro in response to cytochrome c and dATP, while the NH(2)-terminal insert was not required for this activity. Consistent with this result, in vitro binding assays demonstrated that the additional WD-40 repeat was also required for binding of cytochrome c, subsequent Apaf-1 self-association, binding to procaspase-9, and formation of active Apaf-1 oligomers. These experiments demonstrate the expression of multiple Apaf-1 isoforms and show that only those containing the additional WD-40 repeat bind and activate procaspase-9 in response to cytochrome c and dATP.

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