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Mol Immunol. 2002 Nov;39(7-8):431-41.

The ubiquitin-proteasome pathway in thymocyte apoptosis: caspase-dependent processing of the deubiquitinating enzyme USP7 (HAUSP).

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Department of Pathology, Harvard Medical School, Building D2, Room 137, 200 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Programmed cell death (apoptosis) is crucial for thymocyte development. We analyzed the role of the ubiquitin (Ub)-proteasome pathway in dexamethasone-triggered and TCR-mediated apoptosis in fetal thymic organ culture (FTOC). Proteasome activity was increased in apoptotic thymocytes, as visualized by active-site labeling of proteasomal beta subunits. The activity of deubiquitinating enzymes in murine apoptotic thymocytes was likewise examined by active-site labeling. We show that the deubiquitinating enzyme USP7 (HAUSP) is proteolytically processed upon dexamethasone-, gamma-irradiation-, and antigen-induced cell death. Such processing of HAUSP does not occur in caspase 3-/- thymocytes, or upon pretreatment of wild type thymocytes with the general caspase inhibitor ZVAD-fmk. Thus, our results suggest that thymocyte apoptosis leads to modification of deubiquitinating enzymes by caspase activity and may provide an additional link between the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway and the caspase cascade during programmed cell death.

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