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J Biol Chem. 1998 Mar 6;273(10):5841-5.

Caspase-9, Bcl-XL, and Apaf-1 form a ternary complex.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


Genetic analysis of apoptosis in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has revealed the cell death machine to be composed of three core interacting components. CED-4 (equivalent to mammalian Apaf-1) is a nucleotide binding molecule that complexes with the zymogen form of the death protease CED-3, leading to its autoactivation and cell death. CED-9 blocks death by complexing with CED-4 and attenuating its ability to promote CED-3 activation. An equivalent ternary complex was found to be present in mammalian cells involving Apaf-1, the mammalian death protease caspase-9, and Bcl-XL, an anti-apoptotic member of the Bcl-2 family. Consistent with a central role for caspase-9, a dominant negative form effectively inhibited cell death initiated by a wide variety of inducers.

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