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Mol Cell Biol. 2013 Feb;33(4):800-14. doi: 10.1128/MCB.01430-12. Epub 2012 Dec 10.

Type I interferons induce apoptosis by balancing cFLIP and caspase-8 independent of death ligands.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.


Interferons induce a pleiotropy of responses through binding the same cell surface receptor. Here we investigated the molecular mechanism driving interferon-induced apoptosis. Using a nonbiased small interfering RNA (siRNA) screen, we show that silencing genes whose products are directly engaged in the initiation of interferon signaling completely abrogate the interferon antiproliferative response. Apoptosis-related genes such as the caspase-8, cFLIP, and DR5 genes specifically interfere with interferon-induced apoptosis, which we found to be independent of the activity of death ligands. The one gene for which silencing resulted in the strongest proapoptotic effect upon interferon signaling is the cFLIP gene, where silencing shortened the time of initiation of apoptosis from days to hours and increased dramatically the population of apoptotic cells. Thus, cFLIP serves as a regulator for interferon-induced apoptosis. A shift over time in the balance between cFLIP and caspase-8 results in downstream caspase activation and apoptosis. While gamma interferon (IFN-γ) also causes caspase-8 upregulation, we suggest that it follows a different path to apoptosis.

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