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J Cell Physiol. 1999 Mar;178(3):397-408.

PAK2 is cleaved and activated during hyperosmotic shock-induced apoptosis via a caspase-dependent mechanism: evidence for the involvement of oxidative stress.

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Department of Life Sciences, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan, Republic of China.


Hyperosmotic shock elicits a stress response in mammalian cells and can lead to apoptotic cell death. In the present study, we report that hyperosmotic shock can induce activation of a 36 kDa kinase detected by an in-gel kinase assay in several cell types, including mouse Balb/c 3T3 fibroblasts, and human Hep 3B and A431 cells. This 36 kDa kinase can be recognized by an antibody against the C-terminal region of a family of p21Cdc42/Rac-activated kinases (PAKs) on immunoblot. Further studies with this antibody and a PAK2-specific antibody against the N-terminal region of PAK2 demonstrate that hyperosmotic shock can induce cleavage of PAK2 to generate a 36 kDa C-terminal catalytic fragment in cells. The cleavage and activation of PAK2 was found to be closely associated with both DNA fragmentation and activation of an ICE/CED-3 family cysteine protease termed caspase-3 in hyperosmotically shocked cells. Furthermore, pretreating the cells with two caspase inhibitors (Ac-DEVD-cho and Ac-YVAD-cmk) could inhibit both cleavage/activation of PAK2 and DNA fragmentation induced by hyperosmotic shock. Moreover, all these hyperosmotic shock-induced changes (i.e., activation of caspase-3, cleavage/activation of PAK2, and DNA fragmentation) in cells could be blocked by antioxidants such as ascorbic acid (vitamine C), alpha-tocopherol (vitamine E), dithiothreitol, beta-mercaptoethanol, and glutathione. Taken together, our results show that PAK2 is cleaved and activated via a caspase-dependent mechanism during hyperosmotic shock-induced apoptosis and suggest the involvement of antioxidant-preventable oxidative stress in inducing this process.

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