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J Biol Chem. 2000 Mar 31;275(13):9725-33.

Rho family proteins modulate rapid apoptosis induced by cytotoxic T lymphocytes and Fas.

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Department of Cell Biology, Division of Virology, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Little is known about the role of Rho proteins in apoptosis produced by stimuli evolved specifically to produce apoptosis, such as granzymes from cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) and Fas. Here we demonstrate that all three Rho family members are involved in CTL- and Fas-induced killing. Dominant-negative mutants of each Rho family member and Clostridium difficile toxin B, an inhibitor of all family members, strongly inhibited the susceptibility of cells to CTL- and Fas-induced apoptosis. Fas-induced caspase-3 activation was inhibited by C. difficile toxin. Activated mutants of each GTPase increased susceptibility to apoptosis, and activation of Cdc42 increased within 5 min of Fas stimulation. In contrast, during the time required for CTL and Fas killing, no apoptosis was produced by dominant-negative or activated mutants or by C. difficile toxin alone. Inhibition of actin polymerization using latrunculin A reduced the ability of constitutively active GTPase mutants to stimulate apoptosis and blocked Fas-induced activation of caspase-3. Furthermore, the ability of Rac to enhance apoptosis was decreased by point mutations reported to block Rac induction of actin polymerization. Rho family proteins may regulate apoptosis through their effects on the actin cytoskeleton.

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