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Cell Res. 2013 May;23(5):691-704. doi: 10.1038/cr.2013.36. Epub 2013 Mar 12.

Caspase-mediated cleavage of C53/LZAP protein causes abnormal microtubule bundling and rupture of the nuclear envelope.

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Cancer Center, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.


Apoptotic nucleus undergoes distinct morphological and biochemical changes including nuclear shrinkage, chromatin condensation and DNA fragmentation, which are attributed to caspase-mediated cleavage of several nuclear substrates such as lamins. As most of active caspases reside in the cytoplasm, disruption of the nuclear-cytoplasmic barrier is essential for caspases to reach their nuclear targets. The prevailing proposed mechanism is that the increase in the permeability of nuclear pores induced by caspases allows the caspases and other apoptotic factors to diffuse into the nucleus, thereby resulting in the nuclear destruction. Here, we report a novel observation that physical rupture of the nuclear envelope (NE) occurs in the early stage of apoptosis. We found that the NE rupture was caused by caspase-mediated cleavage of C53/LZAP, a protein that has been implicated in various signaling pathways, including NF-κB signaling and DNA damage response, as well as tumorigenesis and metastasis. We also demonstrated that C53/LZAP bound indirectly to the microtubule (MT), and expression of the C53/LZAP cleavage product caused abnormal MT bundling and NE rupture. Taken together, our findings suggest a novel role of C53/LZAP in the regulation of MT dynamics and NE structure during apoptotic cell death. Our study may provide an additional mechanism for disruption of the nuclear-cytoplasmic barrier during apoptosis.

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