Identification of an inhibitor of caspase activation from heart extracts; ATP blocks apoptosome formation
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By revealing the biochemistry of apoptosis it is expected we will both improve our understanding of diseases where apoptosis plays an important role and aid the development of therapies for these disorders. Caspases are a family of proteases whose activity is required for apoptosis. In this study, a cell-free system was used to investigate the mechanism of caspase-9 activation in extracts from heart cells. Unlike extracts from other cell types, heart extracts were found to activate caspases poorly. This could be explained by the low levels of Apaf-1 in heart cells. However, subsequent testing showed that heart extracts contained an inhibitor of caspase activation that could block caspase activation in extracts from different cell types. Subsequent purification of the inhibitor of caspase activation from these extracts identified ATP. Caspase-9 is activated by recruitment into a multi-protein complex, the apoptosome, which then activates downstream caspases that kill the cell. Importantly, size exclusion chromatography showed that ATP inhibits apoptosome formation at physiologically relevant concentrations. Together these data support the hypothesis that intracellular ATP concentration is a critical factor in determining whether an apoptotic stimulus can induce apoptosome formation. Thus, the well described fall in intracellular ATP apoptosis is not an epiphenomenon but may be a pro-apoptotic event contributing to cell death.
KeywordsATP Caspase Apoptosome Heart
We would like to thank our colleagues at the NCBES, NUI Galway for advice and criticism. We would particularly like to acknowledge the invaluable contribution of Dr Dean Tang and Dhyan Chandra of the MD Anderson Cancer Center to timely completion this project and thank them for their openness and collegiality. JR is supported by is supported by an EMBARK scholarship from IRCSET. This research is funded by an HEA grant to AS and an HRB project grant (RP/2006/19) to HOF.
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