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J Biol Chem. 1997 Aug 22;272(34):21010-7.

Activation of caspase-2 in apoptosis.

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Cardiovascular Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital-East, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129 and Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Members of the CED-3/interleukin-1beta-converting enzyme (ICE) protease (caspase) family are synthesized as proforms, which are proteolytically cleaved and activated during apoptosis. We report here that caspase-2 (ICH-1/NEDD-2), a member of the ICE family, is activated during apoptosis by another ICE member, a caspase-3 (CPP32)-like protease(s). When cells are induced to undergo apoptosis, endogenous caspase-2 is first cleaved into three fragments of 32-33 kDa and 14 kDa, which are then further processed into 18- and 12-kDa active subunits. Up to 50 microM N-acetyl-Asp-Glu-Val-Asp-aldehyde (DEVD-CHO), a caspase-3-preferred peptide inhibitor, inhibits caspase-2 activation and DNA fragmentation in vivo, but does not prevent loss of mitochondrial function, while higher concentrations of DEVD-CHO (>50 microM) inhibit both. In comparison, although the activity of caspase-3 is very sensitive to the inhibition of DEVD-CHO (<50 nM), inhibition of caspase-3 activation as marked by processing of the proform requires more than 100 microM DEVD-CHO. Our results suggest that the first cleavage of caspase-2 is accomplished by a caspase-3-like activity, and other ICE-like proteases less sensitive to DEVD-CHO may be responsible for activation of caspase-3 and loss of mitochondrial function.

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