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J Biol Chem. 1999 Mar 12;274(11):6823-6.

Nitric oxide inhibits caspase-3 by S-nitrosation in vivo.

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Molecular Cardiology, Department of Internal Medicine IV, University of Frankfurt, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, 60590 Frankfurt, Germany.


In cultured human endothelial cells, physiological levels of NO prevent apoptosis and interfere with the activation of the caspase cascade. In vitro data have demonstrated that NO inhibits the activity of caspase-3 by S-nitrosation of the enzyme. Here we present evidence for the in vivo occurrence and functional relevance of this novel antiapoptotic mechanism. To demonstrate that the cysteine residue Cys-163 of caspase-3 is S-nitrosated, cells were transfected with the Myc-tagged p17 subunit of caspase-3. After incubation of the transfected cells with different NO donors, Myc-tagged p17 was immunoprecipitated with anti-Myc antibody. S-Nitrosothiol was detected in the immunoprecipitate by electron spin resonance spectroscopy after liberation and spin trapping of NO by N-methyl-D-glucamine-dithiocarbamate-iron complex. Transfection of cells with a p17 mutant, where the essential Cys-163 was mutated into alanine, completely prevented S-nitrosation of the enzyme. As a functional correlate, in human umbilical vein endothelial cells the NO donors sodium nitroprusside or PAPA NONOate (50 microM) significantly reduced the increase in caspase-3-like activity induced by overexpressing caspase-3 by 75 and 70%, respectively. When human umbilical vein endothelial cells were cotransfected with beta-galactosidase, morphological analysis of stained cells revealed that cell death induction by overexpression of caspase-3 was completely suppressed in the presence of sodium nitroprusside, PAPA NONOate, or S-nitroso-L-cysteine (50 microM). Thus, NO supplied by exogenous NO donors serves in vivo as an antiapoptotic regulator of caspase activity via S-nitrosation of the Cys-163 residue of caspase-3.

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