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Cell Death Differ. 2010 Aug;17(8):1244-53. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2010.7. Epub 2010 Feb 12.

A systems level strategy for analyzing the cell death network: implication in exploring the apoptosis/autophagy connection.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


The mammalian cell death network comprises three distinct functional modules: apoptosis, autophagy and programmed necrosis. Currently, the field lacks systems level approaches to assess the extent to which the intermodular connectivity affects cell death performance. Here, we developed a platform that is based on single and double sets of RNAi-mediated perturbations targeting combinations of apoptotic and autophagic genes. The outcome of perturbations is measured both at the level of the overall cell death responses, using an unbiased quantitative reporter, and by assessing the molecular responses within the different functional modules. Epistatic analyses determine whether seemingly unrelated pairs of proteins are genetically linked. The initial running of this platform in etoposide-treated cells, using a few single and double perturbations, identified several levels of connectivity between apoptosis and autophagy. The knock down of caspase3 turned on a switch toward autophagic cell death, which requires Atg5 or Beclin-1. In addition, a reciprocal connection between these two autophagic genes and apoptosis was identified. By applying computational tools that are based on mining the protein-protein interaction database, a novel biochemical pathway connecting between Atg5 and caspase3 is suggested. Scaling up this platform into hundreds of perturbations potentially has a wide, general scope of applicability, and will provide the basis for future modeling of the cell death network.

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