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J Biol Chem. 2008 Jun 27;283(26):18269-82. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M802156200. Epub 2008 Apr 17.

Caspase cleavage of HER-2 releases a Bad-like cell death effector.

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Cell Death Regulation Laboratory, Departments of Medicine and Cell and Molecular Biology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


Human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER-2/ErbB2/neu), a receptor tyrosine kinase that is amplified/overexpressed in poor prognosis breast carcinomas, confers resistance to apoptosis by activating cell survival pathways. Here we demonstrate that the cytoplasmic tail of HER-2 is cleaved by caspases at Asp(1016)/Asp(1019) to release a approximately 47-kDa product, which is subsequently proteolyzed by caspases at Asp(1125) into an unstable 22-kDa fragment that is degraded by the proteasome and a predicted 25-kDa product. Both the 47- and 25-kDa products translocate to mitochondria, release cytochrome c by a Bcl-x(L)-suppressible mechanism, and induce caspase-dependent apoptosis. The 47- and 25-kDa HER-2 cleavage products share a functional BH3-like domain, which is required for cytochrome c release in cells and isolated mitochondria and for apoptosis induction. Caspase-cleaved HER-2 binds Bcl-x(L) and acts synergistically with truncated Bid to induce apoptosis, mimicking the actions of the BH3-only protein Bad. Moreover, the HER-2 cleavage products cooperate with Noxa to induce apoptosis in cells expressing both Bcl-x(L) and Mcl-1, confirming their Bad-like function. Collectively, our results indicate that caspases activate a previously unrecognized proapoptotic function of HER-2 by releasing a Bad-like cell death effector.

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