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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Sep 3;99(18):11860-5. Epub 2002 Aug 19.

Essential myosin light chain as a target for caspase-3 in failing myocardium.

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I. Medizinische Klinik and Deutsches Herzzentrum, D-81675 Munich, Germany.


Programmed cell death involves the activation of caspase proteases that can mediate the cleavage of vital cytoskeletal proteins. We have recently reported that, in failing cardiac myocytes, caspase-3 activation is associated with a reduction in contractile performance. In this study we used a modified yeast two-hybrid system to screen for caspase-3 interacting proteins of the cardiac cytoskeleton. We identified ventricular essential myosin light chain (vMLC1) as a target for caspase-3. By sequencing and site-directed mutagenesis, a noncanonical cleavage site for caspase-3 was mapped to the C-terminal DFVE(135)G motif. We demonstrated that vMLC1 cleavage in failing myocardium in vivo is associated with a morphological disruption of the organized vMLC1 staining of sarcomeres, and with a reduction in myocyte contractile performance. Adenoviral gene transfer of the caspase inhibitor p35 in vivo prevented caspase-3 activation and vMLC1 cleavage, with positive impact on contractility. These data suggest that direct cleavage of vMLC1 by activated caspase-3 may contribute to depression of myocyte function by altering cross-bridge interaction between myosin and actin molecules. Therefore, activation of apoptotic pathways in the heart may lead to contractile dysfunction before cell death.

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