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Exp Cell Res. 2001 Apr 15;265(1):145-51.

Caspase-dependent cytosolic release of cytochrome c and membrane translocation of Bax in p53-induced apoptosis.

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Department of Molecular Cellular Oncology and Microbiology, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, 5-45 Yoshima, 1-Chome, Bunkyo-Ku, Tokyo, 113-8549, Japan.


Activation of p53 induces apoptosis in various cell types. However, the mechanism by which p53 induces apoptosis is still unclear. We reported previously that the activation of a temperature-sensitive mutant p53 (p53(138Val)) induced activation of caspase 3 and apoptosis in Jurkat cells. To elucidate the pathway linking p53 and downstream caspases, we examined the activation of caspases 8 and 9 in apoptotic cells. The results showed that both caspases were activated during apoptosis as judged by the appearance of cleavage products from procaspases and the caspase activities to cleave specific fluorogenic substrates. The significant inhibition of apoptosis by a tetrapeptide inhibitor of caspase 8 and caspase 9 suggested that both caspases are required for apoptosis induction. In addition, the membrane translocation of Bax and cytosolic release of cytochrome c, but not loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, were detected at an early stage of apoptosis. Moreover, Bax translocation, cytochrome c release, and caspase 9 activation were blocked by the broad-spectrum caspase inhibitor, Z-VAD-fmk and the caspase 8-preferential inhibitor, Ac-IETD-CHO, suggesting that the mitochondria might participate in apoptosis by amplifying the upstream death signals. In conclusion, our results indicated that activation of caspase 8 or other caspase(s) by p53 triggered the membrane translocation of Bax and cytosolic release of cytochrome c, which might amplify the apoptotic signal by activating caspase 9 and its downstream caspases.

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