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EMBO J. 2012 Mar 7;31(5):1279-92. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2011.491. Epub 2012 Jan 13.

Rsk-mediated phosphorylation and 14-3-3ɛ binding of Apaf-1 suppresses cytochrome c-induced apoptosis.

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Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Many pro-apoptotic signals trigger mitochondrial cytochrome c release, leading to caspase activation and ultimate cellular breakdown. Cell survival pathways, including the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade, promote cell viability by impeding mitochondrial cytochrome c release and by inhibiting subsequent caspase activation. Here, we describe a mechanism for the inhibition of cytochrome c-induced caspase activation by MAPK signalling, identifying a novel mode of apoptotic regulation exerted through Apaf-1 phosphorylation by the 90-kDa ribosomal S6 kinase (Rsk). Recruitment of 14-3-3ɛ to phosphorylated Ser268 impedes the ability of cytochrome c to nucleate apoptosome formation and activate downstream caspases. High endogenous levels of Rsk in PC3 prostate cancer cells or Rsk activation in other cell types promoted 14-3-3ɛ binding to Apaf-1 and rendered the cells insensitive to cytochrome c, suggesting a potential role for Rsk signalling in apoptotic resistance of prostate cancers and other cancers with elevated Rsk activity. Collectively, these results identify a novel locus of apoptosomal regulation wherein MAPK signalling promotes Rsk-catalysed Apaf-1 phosphorylation and consequent binding of 14-3-3ɛ, resulting in decreased cellular responsiveness to cytochrome c.

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