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Cell Death Differ. 2011 Aug;18(8):1326-36. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2011.3. Epub 2011 Feb 4.

Control of AIF-mediated cell death by antagonistic functions of CHIP ubiquitin E3 ligase and USP2 deubiquitinating enzyme.

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School of Biological Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.


Apoptosis inducing factor (AIF) is a mitochondrial oxidoreductase that scavenges reactive oxygen species under normal conditions. Under certain stresses, such as exposure to N-methyl-N'-nitro-N'-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG), AIF is truncated and released from the mitochondria and translocated into the nucleus, where the truncated AIF (tAIF) induces caspase-independent cell death. However, it is unknown how cells decide to kill themselves or operate ways to survive when they encounter stresses that induce the release of tAIF. Here, we demonstrated that USP2 and CHIP contribute to the control of tAIF stability. USP2 deubiquitinated and stabilized tAIF, thus promoting AIF-mediated cell death. In contrast, CHIP ubiquitinated and destabilized tAIF, thus preventing the cell death. Consistently, CHIP-deficient cells showed an increased sensitivity to MNNG. On the other hand, knockdown of USP2 attenuated MNNG-induced cell death. Moreover, exposure to MNNG caused a dramatic decrease in CHIP level, but not that of USP2, concurrent with cell shrinkage and chromatin condensation. These findings indicate that CHIP and USP2 show antagonistic functions in the control of AIF-mediated cell death, and implicate the role of the enzymes as a switch for cells to live or die under stresses that cause tAIF release.

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