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Plant J. 2011 Jun;66(6):969-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2011.04554.x. Epub 2011 Apr 28.

Arabidopsis metacaspase 2d is a positive mediator of cell death induced during biotic and abiotic stresses.

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Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8550, USA.


Cysteine proteases such as caspases play important roles in programmed cell death (PCD) of metazoans. Plant metacaspases (MCPs), a family of cysteine proteases structurally related to caspases, have been hypothesized to be ancestors of metazoan caspases, despite their different substrate specificity. Arabidopsis thaliana contains six type II MCP genes (AtMCP2a-f). Whether and how these individual members are involved in controlling PCD in plants remains largely unknown. Here we investigated the function and regulation of AtMCP2d, the predominant and constitutively expressed member of type II MCPs, in stress-inducible PCD. Two AtMCP2d mutants (mcp2d-1 and mcp2d-3) exhibited reduced sensitivity to PCD-inducing mycotoxin fumonisin B1 as well as oxidative stress inducers, whereas AtMCP2d over-expressors were more sensitive to these agents, and exhibited accelerated cell-death progression. We found that AtMCP2d exclusively localizes to the cytosol, and its accumulation and self-processing patterns were age-dependent in leaves. Importantly, active proteolytic processing of AtMCP2d proteins dependent on its catalytic activity was observed in mature leaves during mycotoxin-induced cell death. We also found that mcp2d-1 leaves exhibited reduced cell death in response to Pseudomonas syringae carrying avirulent gene avrRpt2, and that self-processing of AtMCP2d was also detected in wild-type leaves in response to this pathogen. Furthermore, increases in processed AtMCP2d proteins were found to correlate with conditional cell-death induction in two lesion-mimic mutants (cpr22 and ssi4) that exhibit spontaneous cell-death phenotypes. Taken together, our data strongly suggest that AtMCP2d plays a positive regulatory role in biotic and abiotic stress-induced PCD.

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