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Mol Cell Proteomics. 2009 Dec;8(12):2700-14. doi: 10.1074/mcp.M900310-MCP200. Epub 2009 Sep 16.

Proteome-wide substrate analysis indicates substrate exclusion as a mechanism to generate caspase-7 versus caspase-3 specificity.

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Department for Molecular Biomedical Research, Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB), Ghent 9052, Belgium.


Caspase-3 and -7 are considered functionally redundant proteases with similar proteolytic specificities. We performed a proteome-wide screen on a mouse macrophage lysate using the N-terminal combined fractional diagonal chromatography technology and identified 46 shared, three caspase-3-specific, and six caspase-7-specific cleavage sites. Further analysis of these cleavage sites and substitution mutation experiments revealed that for certain cleavage sites a lysine at the P5 position contributes to the discrimination between caspase-7 and -3 specificity. One of the caspase-7-specific substrates, the 40 S ribosomal protein S18, was studied in detail. The RPS18-derived P6-P5' undecapeptide retained complete specificity for caspase-7. The corresponding P6-P1 hexapeptide still displayed caspase-7 preference but lost strict specificity, suggesting that P' residues are additionally required for caspase-7-specific cleavage. Analysis of truncated peptide mutants revealed that in the case of RPS18 the P4-P1 residues constitute the core cleavage site but that P6, P5, P2', and P3' residues critically contribute to caspase-7 specificity. Interestingly, specific cleavage by caspase-7 relies on excluding recognition by caspase-3 and not on increasing binding for caspase-7.

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