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Mol Carcinog. 2015 Feb;54(2):83-92. doi: 10.1002/mc.22075. Epub 2013 Sep 4.

Phosphorylation of Smac by Akt promotes the caspase-3 activation during etoposide-induced apoptosis in HeLa cells.

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College of Pharmacy, Keimyung University, Daegu, Republic of Korea.


The Akt, family of serine/threonine protein kinases functions as key regulators of multiple aspects of cell behavior, such as survival, proliferation, migration, and carcinogenesis. Notably, Akt exerts its anti-apoptotic effects through the phosphorylation of numerous substrates related with cell cycle, genome stability, and cancer development. In this report, nevertheless, we focused our view on the novel role of Akt which involves in a pro-apoptotic action by phosphorylating second mitochondria derived activator of caspases (Smac) protein during etoposide-induced apoptotic processes. Our data reveals that Akt could bind to and phosphorylate Smac at serine residue 67, which enhances the ability of Smac to interact with the cytosolic X-chromosome linked IAP (XIAP) protein. The cellular interaction of wild-type Smac with XIAP was enhanced with similar activation kinetics of Akt activity, while this interaction was markedly attenuated in cells expressing the phosphorylation-defective mutant S67A-Smac during etoposide-induced apoptosis. Moreover, we provide the evidence indicating that the phosphorylation of Smac at ser-67 markedly upregulates the caspase-3 activity by promoting the interaction of Smac with XIAP. Taken together, we propose that the phosphorylation of Smac by Akt might be a novel mechanism that involves in amplification of caspase cascade pathway during etoposide-induced apoptosis in HeLa cells.


Akt; Smac; XIAP; apoptosis; phosphorylation

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