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EMBO J. 1997 Apr 1;16(7):1695-709.

Induction of apoptosis by the transcription factor c-Jun.

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Unité des Virus Oncogenes, URA 1644 du CNRS, Departement des Biotechnologies, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France.


c-Jun, a signal-transducing transcription factor of the AP-1 family, normally implicated in cell cycle progression, differentiation and cell transformation, recently has also been linked to apoptosis. To explore further the functional roles of c-Jun, a conditional allele was generated by fusion of c-Jun with the hormone-binding domain of the human estrogen receptor (ER). Here we demonstrate that increased c-Jun activity is sufficient to trigger apoptotic cell death in NIH 3T3 fibroblasts. c-Jun-induced apoptosis is evident at high serum levels, but is enhanced further in factor-deprived fibroblasts. Furthermore, apoptosis by c-Jun is not accompanied by an increase in DNA synthesis. Constitutive overexpression of the apoptosis inhibitor protein Bcl-2 delays the c-Jun-mediated cell death. The regions of c-Jun necessary for apoptosis induction include the amino-terminal transactivation and the carboxy-terminal leucine zipper domain, suggesting that c-Jun may activate cell death by acting as a transcriptional regulator. We further show that alpha-fodrin, a substrate of the interleukin 1beta-converting enzyme (ICE) and CED-3 family of cysteine proteases, becomes proteolytically cleaved in cells undergoing cell death by increased c-Jun activity. Moreover, cell-permeable irreversible peptide inhibitors of the ICE/CED-3 family of cysteine proteases prevented the cell death.

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