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Nature. 1997 Nov 20;390(6657):305-8.

Caenorhabditis elegans CED-9 protein is a bifunctional cell-death inhibitor.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139, USA.


The Caenorhabditis elegans gene ced-9 prevents cells from undergoing programmed cell death and encodes a protein similar to the mammalian cell-death inhibitor Bcl-2. We show here that the CED-9 protein is a substrate for the C. elegans cell-death protease CED-3, which is a member of a family of cysteine proteases first defined by CED-3 and human interleukin-1beta converting enzyme (ICE). CED-9 can be cleaved by CED-3 at two sites near its amino terminus, and the presence of at least one of these sites is important for complete protection by CED-9 against cell death. Cleavage of CED-9 by CED-3 generates a carboxy-terminal product that resembles Bcl-2 in sequence and in function. Bcl-2 and the baculovirus protein p35, which inhibits cell death in different species through a mechanism that depends on the presence of its cleavage site for the CED-3/ICE family of proteases, inhibit cell death additively in C. elegans. Our results indicate that CED-9 prevents programmed cell death in C. elegans through two distinct mechanisms: first, CED-9 may, by analogy with p35, directly inhibit the CED-3 protease by an interaction involving the CED-3 cleavage sites in CED-9; second, CED-9 may directly or indirectly inhibit CED-3 by means of a protective mechanism similar to that used by mammalian Bcl-2.

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