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J Biol Chem. 2004 Jan 16;279(3):2046-52. Epub 2003 Oct 29.

Alix, a protein regulating endosomal trafficking, is involved in neuronal death.

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Laboratoire Neurodégénérescence et Plasticité, INSERM-UJF, Pavillon de Neurologie, Hopital A. Michallon, 38043 Grenoble Cedex 9, France.


Alix/AIP1 is a cytoplasmic protein, which was first characterized as an interactor of ALG-2, a calcium-binding protein necessary for cell death. Alix has also recently been defined as a regulator of the endo-lysosomal system. Here we have used post-mitotic cerebellar neurons to test Alix function in caspase-dependent and -independent cell death. Indeed, these neurons survived when cultured in 25 mm potassium-containing medium but underwent apoptosis soon after the extracellular potassium was lowered to 5 mm. In agreement with other studies, we show that caspases are activated after K+ deprivation, but that inhibition of these proteases, using the pancaspase inhibitor boc-aspartyl(OMe)-fluoromethylketone, has no effect on cell survival. Transfection experiments demonstrated that Alix overexpression is sufficient to induce caspase activation, whereas overexpression of its C-terminal half, Alix-CT, blocks caspase activation and cell death after K+ deprivation. We also define a 12-amino acid PXY repeat of the C-terminal proline-rich domain necessary for binding ALG-2. Deletion of this domain in Alix or in Alix-CT abolished the effects of the overexpressed proteins on neuronal survival, demonstrating that the ALG-2-binding region is crucial for the death-modulating function of Alix. Overall, these findings define the Alix/ALG-2 complex as a regulator of cell death controlling both caspase-dependent and -independent pathways. They also suggest a molecular link between the endo-lysosomal system and the effectors of the cell death machinery.

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