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Cell. 2009 May 15;137(4):721-35. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2009.03.015. Epub 2009 May 7.

Cullin3-based polyubiquitination and p62-dependent aggregation of caspase-8 mediate extrinsic apoptosis signaling.

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Department of Molecular Oncology, Genentech, Inc., 1 DNA Way, South San Francisco, CA 94080, USA.


Cell-surface death receptors such as DR4 and DR5 trigger apoptosis through a death-inducing signaling complex (DISC) that recruits the apical protease caspase-8. Apoptosis commitment requires efficient activation and autocatalytic release of caspase-8 into the cytoplasm to engage executioner caspases. While DISC recruitment initiates caspase-8 stimulation, full activation of the protease depends on further molecular aggregation events that are not fully understood. Here, we show that death receptor ligation induces polyubiquitination of caspase-8, through a previously unknown interaction of the DISC with a cullin3 (CUL3)-based E3 ligase. CUL3-mediated caspase-8 polyubiquitination required the RING box protein RBX1, whereas the deubiquitinase A20 reversed this modification. The ubiquitin-binding protein p62/sequestosome-1 promoted aggregation of CUL3-modified caspase-8 within p62-dependent foci, leading to full activation and processing of the enzyme and driving commitment to cell death. These results identify a mechanism that positively controls apoptosis signaling by polyubiquitination and aggregation of a key initiator caspase.

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