Amino Acids

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 1793–1802 | Cite as

TG2 transamidating activity acts as a reostat controlling the interplay between apoptosis and autophagy

  • Federica Rossin
  • Manuela D’Eletto
  • Douglas Macdonald
  • Maria Grazia Farrace
  • Mauro Piacentini
Original Article


Tissue transglutaminase (TG2) activity has been implicated in inflammatory disease processes such as Celiac disease, infectious diseases, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Huntington’s disease. Furthermore, four distinct biochemical activities have been described for TG2 including protein crosslinking via transamidation, GTPase, kinase and protein disulfide isomerase activities. Although the enzyme plays a complex role in the regulation of cell death and autophagy, the molecular mechanisms and the putative biochemical activity involved in each is unclear. Therefore, the goal of the present study was to determine how TG2 modulates autophagy and/or apoptosis and which of its biochemical activities is involved in those processes. To address this question, immortalized embryonic fibroblasts obtained from TG2 knock-out mice were reconstituted with either wild-type TG2 or TG2 lacking its transamidating activity and these were subjected to different treatments to induce autophagy or apoptosis. We found that knock out of the endogenous TG2 resulted in a significant exacerbation of caspase 3 activity and PARP cleavage in MEF cells subjected to apoptotic stimuli. Interestingly, the same cells showed the accumulation of LC3 II isoform following autophagy induction. These findings strongly suggest that TG2 transamidating activity plays a protective role in the response of MEF cells to death stimuli, because the expression of the wild-type TG2, but not its transamidation inactive C277S mutant, resulted in a suppression of caspase 3 as well as PARP cleavage upon apoptosis induction. Additionally, the same mutant was unable to catalyze the final steps in autophagosome formation during autophagy. Our findings clearly indicate that the TG2 transamidating activity is the primary biochemical function involved in the physiological regulation of both apoptosis and autophagy. These data also indicate that TG2 is a key regulator of cross-talk between autophagy and apoptosis.


Transglutaminase 2 Apoptosis Autophagy Transamidating activity 



We thank Dr P. Mattioli for expert assistance with image processing, and Dr S. Oliverio for help with flow citometry analysis. This work was supported by grants from CHDI Foundation Inc. (USA), Compagnia di San Paolo, and Fondazione Telethon to MP, the Ministry of Health of Italy “Ricerca Corrente” and “Ricerca Finalizzata”, and AIRC. The support of the EU grant “Apo-Sys” to MP is also acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Federica Rossin
    • 1
  • Manuela D’Eletto
    • 1
  • Douglas Macdonald
    • 3
  • Maria Grazia Farrace
    • 1
  • Mauro Piacentini
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of Rome “Tor Vergata”RomeItaly
  2. 2.National Institute for Infectious Diseases IRCCS “Lazzaro Spallanzani”RomeItaly
  3. 3.CHDI Management/CHDI FoundationLos AngelesUSA

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