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J Biol Chem. 2001 Sep 7;276(36):33444-51. Epub 2001 May 31.

Serum response factor cleavage by caspases 3 and 7 linked to apoptosis in human BJAB cells.

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School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Nottingham, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH, United Kingdom.


Apoptosis involves the cessation of cellular processes, the breakdown of intracellular organelles, and, finally, the nonphlogistic clearance of apoptotic cells from the body. Important for these events is a family of proteases, caspases, which are activated by a proteolytic cleavage cascade and drive apoptosis by targeting key proteins within the cell. Here, we demonstrate that serum response factor (SRF), a transcription factor essential for proliferative gene expression, is cleaved by caspases and that this cleavage occurs in proliferating murine fibroblasts and can be induced in the human B-cell line BJAB. We identify the two major sites at which SRF cleavage occurs as Asp(245) and Asp(254), the caspases responsible for the cleavage and generate a mutant of SRF resistant to cleavage in BJAB cells. Investigation of the physiological and functional significance of SRF cleavage reveals that it correlates with the loss of c-fos expression, whereby neither SRF cleavage fragment retains transcriptional activity. Moreover, the expression of a noncleavable SRF in BJAB cells suppresses apoptosis induced by Fas cross-linking. These results suggest that for apoptosis to proceed, the transcriptional events promoting cell survival and proliferation, in which SRF is involved, must first be inactivated.

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