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Nature. 2001 Jul 5;412(6842):90-4.

Mitochondrial endonuclease G is important for apoptosis in C. elegans.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA.


Programmed cell death (apoptosis) is a tightly regulated process of cell disassembly in which dying cells and their nuclei shrink and fragment and the chromosomal DNA is degraded into internucleosomal repeats. Here we report the characterization of the cps-6 gene, which appears to function downstream of, or in parallel to, the cell-death protease CED-3 of Caenorhabditis elegans in the DNA degradation process during apoptosis. cps-6 encodes a homologue of human mitochondrial endonuclease G, and its protein product similarly localizes to mitochondria in C. elegans. Reduction of cps-6 activity caused by a genetic mutation or RNA-mediated interference (RNAi) affects normal DNA degradation, as revealed by increased staining in a TUNEL assay, and results in delayed appearance of cell corpses during development in C. elegans. This observation provides in vivo evidence that the DNA degradation process is important for proper progression of apoptosis. CPS-6 is the first mitochondrial protein identified to be involved in programmed cell death in C. elegans, underscoring the conserved and important role of mitochondria in the execution of apoptosis.

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