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Cell Death Differ. 2004 Aug;11(8):800-11.

Mechanism of action of Drosophila Reaper in mammalian cells: Reaper globally inhibits protein synthesis and induces apoptosis independent of mitochondrial permeability.

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Division of Immunology, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, 1066 CX Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Drosophila Reaper can bind inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAP) and thereby rescue caspases from proteasomal degradation. In insect cells, this is sufficient to induce apoptosis. Reaper can also induce apoptosis in mammalian cells, in which caspases need to be activated, usually via the mitochondrial pathway. Nevertheless, we find that Reaper efficiently induces apoptosis in mammalian cells in the absence of mitochondrial permeabilisation and cytochrome c release. Moreover, this capacity was only marginally affected by deletion of Reaper's amino-terminal IAP-binding motif. Independent of this motif, Reaper could globally suppress protein synthesis. Deletion of 20 amino acids from the carboxy-terminus of Reaper fully abrogated its potential to inhibit protein synthesis and to induce apoptosis in the absence of IAP-binding. Our findings indicate that the newly identified capacity of Reaper to suppress protein translation can operate in mammalian cells and may be key to its pro-apoptotic activity.

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