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J Biol Chem. 2008 Jul 11;283(28):19499-510. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M800331200. Epub 2008 May 5.

Caspase-8 cleaves histone deacetylase 7 and abolishes its transcription repressor function.

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Program in Apoptosis and Cell Death Research, Burnham Institute for Medical Research, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Caspase-8 is the initiator caspase of the extrinsic apoptosis pathway and also has a role in non-apoptotic physiologies. Identifying endogenous substrates for caspase-8 by using integrated bioinformatics and biological approaches is required to delineate the diverse roles of this caspase. We describe a number of novel putative caspase-8 substrates using the Prediction of Protease Specificity (PoPS) program, one of which is histone deacetylase 7 (HDAC7). HDAC7 is cleaved faster than any other caspase-8 substrate described to date. It is also cleaved in primary CD4+CD8+ thymocytes undergoing extrinsic apoptosis. By using naturally occurring caspase inhibitors that have evolved exquisite specificity at concentrations found within the cell, we could unequivocally assign the cleavage activity to caspase-8. Importantly, cleavage of HDAC7 alters its subcellular localization and abrogates its Nur77 repressor function. Thus we demonstrate a direct role for initiator caspase-mediated proteolysis in promoting gene transcription.

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