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Biochem J. 2007 Jul 1;405(1):115-22.

Requirement of Apaf-1 for mitochondrial events and the cleavage or activation of all procaspases during genotoxic stress-induced apoptosis.

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Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology & Therapeutics and the Kansas Cancer Center, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS 66160, USA.


Sequential activation of caspases is critical for the execution of apoptosis. Recent evidence suggests caspase 2 is a significant upstream caspase capable of initiating mitochondrial events, such as the release of cytochrome c. In particular, in vitro studies using recombinant proteins have shown that cleaved caspase 2 can induce mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization directly or by cleaving the BH3-only protein BID (BH3 interacting domain death agonist). However, whether interchain cleavage or activation of procaspase 2 occurs prior to Apaf-1-mediated procaspase 9 activation under more natural conditions remains unresolved. In the present study, we show that Apaf-1-deficient Jurkat T-lymphocytes and mouse embryonic fibroblasts were highly resistant to DNA-damage-induced apoptosis and failed to cleave or activate any apoptotic procaspase, including caspase 2. Significantly, drug-induced cytochrome c release and loss of mitochondrial membrane potential were inhibited in cells lacking Apaf-1. By comparison, procaspase proteolysis and apoptosis were only delayed slightly in Apaf-1-deficient Jurkat cells upon treatment with anti-Fas antibody. Our data support a model in which Apaf-1 is necessary for the cleavage or activation of all procaspases and the promotion of mitochondrial apoptotic events induced by genotoxic drugs.

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