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Oncogene. 2001 Jan 11;20(2):260-9.

Modulation of apoptosis by procaspase-2 short isoform: selective inhibition of chromatin condensation, apoptotic body formation and phosphatidylserine externalization.

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INSERM U517, Faculties of Medicine & Pharmacy, 7 boulevard Jeanne d'Arc, 21033 Dijon, France.


Procaspase-2 is one of the cysteine aspartate proteases involved in apoptotic cell death. Alternative splicing of CASP-2 messenger RNA generates a long isoform, procaspase-2L, whose overexpression induces cell death and a truncated isoform, procaspase-2S, whose function remains poorly defined. The present study explored the consequences of procaspase-2S overexpression in U937 human leukemic cells exposed to the topoisomerase II inhibitor etoposide as an apoptotic stimulus. Overexpression of procaspase-2S in U937 cells partially prevented nuclear changes associated with etoposide-induced cell death, as determined by Hoechst 33342 staining of nuclear chromatin and electron microscopy studies. Procaspase-2S also prevented the maturation of apoptotic bodies, delayed phosphatidylserine externalization on the plasma membrane and prevented the cleavage and activation of procaspase-2L. These effects were not observed when the cysteine 289 in the consensus QACRG motif was mutated into a serine. Wild-type procaspase-2S overexpression did not influence the cleavage of procaspase-3, procaspase-7 and poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase nor the fragmentation of nuclear DNA into nucleosome-sized fragments. Altogether, these results indicate that the short isoform of procaspase-2 negatively interferes with selective features of apoptosis, an activity that is suppressed by mutation of the cysteine 289.

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