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J Biol Chem. 2008 Jul 18;283(29):20149-58. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M802846200. Epub 2008 May 8.

Phosphorylation of murine caspase-9 by the protein kinase casein kinase 2 regulates its cleavage by caspase-8.

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  • 1Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


Previous studies from our laboratory had indicated that cytochrome c-independent processing and activation of caspase-9 by caspase-8 contributed to early amplification of the caspase cascade in tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha-treated murine cells. Here we show that murine caspase-9 is phosphorylated by casein kinase 2 (CK2) on a serine near the site of caspase-8 cleavage. CK2 has been shown to regulate cleavage of the pro-apoptotic Bid protein by phosphorylating serine residues near its caspase-8 cleavage site. Similarly, CK2 modification of Ser(348) on caspase-9 appears to render the protease refractory to cleavage by active caspase-8. This phosphorylation did not affect the ability of caspase-9 to autoprocess. Substitution of Ser(348) abolished phosphorylation but not cleavage, and a phospho-site mutant promoted apoptosis in TNF-alpha-treated caspase-9 knock-out mouse embryo fibroblasts. Furthermore, inhibition of CK2 activity and RNA interference-mediated knockdown of the kinase accelerated caspase-9 activation, whereas phosphatase inhibition delayed both caspase-9 activation and death in response to TNF receptor occupation. Taken together, these studies show that TNF receptor cross-linking promotes dephosphorylation of caspase-9, rendering it susceptible to processing by activated caspase-8 protein. Thus, our data suggest that modification of procaspase-9 to protect it from inappropriate cleavage and activation is yet another mechanism by which the oncogenic kinase CK2 promotes survival.

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