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Cell Death Dis. 2012 Jul 12;3:e347. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2012.85.

Photofrin binds to procaspase-3 and mediates photodynamic treatment-triggered methionine oxidation and inactivation of procaspase-3.

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Molecular Medicine Research Center, College of Medicine, Chang Gung University, Tao-Yuan, Taiwan, ROC.


Diverse death phenotypes of cancer cells can be induced by Photofrin-mediated photodynamic therapy (PDT), which has a decisive role in eliciting a tumor-specific immunity for long-term tumor control. However, the mechanism(s) underlying this diversity remain elusive. Caspase-3 is a critical factor in determining cell death phenotypes in many physiological settings. Here, we report that Photofrin-PDT can modify and inactivate procaspase-3 in cancer cells. In cells exposed to an external apoptotic trigger, high-dose Photofrin-PDT pretreatment blocked the proteolytic activation of procaspase-3 by its upstream caspase. We generated and purified recombinant procaspase-3-D(3)A (a mutant without autolysis/autoactivation activity) to explore the underlying mechanism(s). Photofrin could bind directly to procaspase-3-D(3)A, and Photofrin-PDT-triggered inactivation and modification of procaspase-3-D(3)A was seen in vitro. Mass spectrometry-based quantitative analysis for post-translational modifications using both (16)O/(18)O- and (14)N/(15)N-labeling strategies revealed that Photofrin-PDT triggered a significant oxidation of procaspase-3-D(3)A (mainly on Met-27, -39 and -44) in a Photofrin dose-dependent manner, whereas the active site Cys-163 remained largely unmodified. Site-directed mutagenesis experiments further showed that Met-44 has an important role in procaspase-3 activation. Collectively, our results reveal that Met oxidation is a novel mechanism for the Photofrin-PDT-mediated inactivation of procaspase-3, potentially explaining at least some of the complicated cell death phenotypes triggered by PDT.

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