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J Biol Chem. 1999 Feb 19;274(8):5053-60.

Distinct caspase cascades are initiated in receptor-mediated and chemical-induced apoptosis.

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MRC Toxicology Unit, Hodgkin Building, University of Leicester, P. O. Box 138, Lancaster Road, Leicester, LE1 9HN United Kingdom.


Release of cytochrome c is important in many forms of apoptosis. Recent studies of CD95 (Fas/APO-1)-induced apoptosis have implicated caspase-8 cleavage of Bid, a BH3 domain-containing proapoptotic member of the Bcl-2 family, in this release. We now demonstrate that both receptor-induced (CD95 and tumor necrosis factor) and chemical-induced apoptosis result in a similar time-dependent activation of caspases-3, -7, -8, and -9 in Jurkat T cells and human leukemic U937 cells. In receptor-mediated apoptosis, the caspase inhibitor, benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp fluoromethyl ketone (Z-VAD. FMK), inhibits apoptosis prior to commitment to cell death by inhibiting the upstream activator caspase-8, cleavage of Bid, release of mitochondrial cytochrome c, processing of effector caspases, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, and externalization of phosphatidylserine. However, Z-VAD.FMK inhibits chemical-induced apoptosis at a stage after commitment to cell death by inhibiting the initiator caspase-9 and the resultant postmitochondrial activation of effector caspases. Cleavage of Bid but not release of cytochrome c is blocked by Z-VAD.FMK demonstrating that in chemical-induced apoptosis cytochrome c release is caspase-independent and is not mediated by activation of Bid. We propose that caspases form an integral part of the cell death-inducing mechanism in receptor-mediated apoptosis, whereas in chemical-induced apoptosis they act solely as executioners of apoptosis.

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