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Virology. 1997 Apr 28;231(1):81-8.

The apoptosis pathway triggered by the interferon-induced protein kinase PKR requires the third basic domain, initiates upstream of Bcl-2, and involves ICE-like proteases.

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Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, CSIC Cantoblanco, Madrid, Spain.


The interferon-induced double-stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR) is a serine/threonine kinase which exerts antiviral and anticellular functions. The antiviral effect of PKR is mediated by the phosphorylation of the alpha subunit of the translational initiation factor elF-2 alpha, while it is not known whether the anticellular effect is due to phosphorylation of elF-2 alpha, l kappa B, or other unknown substrates. We have previously shown that activation of PKR during infection of cells with a vaccinia virus recombinant expressing the wild-type kinase resulted in a complete inhibition of viral and cellular protein synthesis and in the induction of apoptosis. Here, we report that expression of the human proto-oncogene bcl-2 blocks PKR-induced apoptosis but not PKR-induced inhibition of translation. In addition, PKR-induced apoptosis resulted in a cleavage of the death substrate poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP). Moreover, induction of apoptosis by PKR was not observed with a mutant lacking the third basic region (aa 234-272). Taken together, these results suggest that the third basic region of PKR is required for PKR-induced apoptosis, the process is initiated upstream of bcl-2 and involves activation of a cellular protease, CPP32, or its family members that cleave PARP.

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