The Apaf-1*procaspase-9 apoptosome complex functions as a proteolytic-based molecular timer.
ABSTRACT: During stress-induced apoptosis, the initiator caspase-9 is activated by the Apaf-1 apoptosome and must remain bound to retain significant catalytic activity. Nevertheless, in apoptotic cells the vast majority of processed caspase-9 is paradoxically observed outside the complex. We show herein that apoptosome-mediated cleavage of procaspase-9 occurs exclusively through a CARD-displacement mechanism, so that unlike the effector procaspase-3, procaspase-9 cannot be processed by the apoptosome as a typical substrate. Indeed, procaspase-9 possessed higher affinity for the apoptosome and could displace the processed caspase-9 from the complex, thereby facilitating a continuous cycle of procaspase-9 recruitment/activation, processing, and release from the complex. Owing to its rapid autocatalytic cleavage, however, procaspase-9 per se contributed little to the activation of procaspase-3. Thus, the Apaf-1 apoptosome functions as a proteolytic-based 'molecular timer', wherein the intracellular concentration of procaspase-9 sets the overall duration of the timer, procaspase-9 autoprocessing activates the timer, and the rate at which the processed caspase-9 dissociates from the complex (and thus loses its capacity to activate procaspase-3) dictates how fast the timer 'ticks' over.
Project description:According to dogma, initiator caspases are activated through proximity-induced homodimerization, but some studies infer that during apoptosis caspase-9 may instead form a holoenzyme with the Apaf-1 apoptosome. Using several biochemical approaches, including a novel site-specific crosslinking technique, we provide the first direct evidence that procaspase-9 homodimerizes within the apoptosome, markedly increasing its avidity for the complex and inducing selective intramolecular cleavage at Asp-315. Remarkably, however, procaspase-9 could also bind via its small subunit to the NOD domain in Apaf-1, resulting in the formation of a heterodimer that more efficiently activated procaspase-3. Following cleavage, the intersubunit linker (and associated conformational changes) in caspase-9-p35/p12 inhibited its ability to form homo- and heterodimers, but feedback cleavage by caspase-3 at Asp-330 removed the linker entirely and partially restored activity to caspase-9-p35/p10. Thus, the apoptosome mediates the formation of caspase-9 homo- and heterodimers, both of which are impacted by cleavage and contribute to its overall function.
Project description:Autocatalytic activation of an initiator caspase triggers the onset of apoptosis. In dying cells, caspase-9 activation is mediated by a multimeric adaptor complex known as the Apaf-1 apoptosome. The molecular mechanism by which caspase-9 is activated by the Apaf-1 apoptosome remains largely unknown. Here we demonstrate that the previously reported 1:1 interaction between Apaf-1 caspase recruitment domain (CARD) and caspase-9 CARD is insufficient for the activation of caspase-9. Rather, formation of a multimeric CARD:CARD assembly between Apaf-1 and caspase-9, which requires three types of distinct interfaces, underlies caspase-9 activation. Importantly, an additional surface area on the multimeric CARD assembly is essential for caspase-9 activation. Together, these findings reveal mechanistic insights into the activation of caspase-9 by the Apaf-1 apoptosome and support the induced conformation model for initiator caspase activation by adaptor complexes.
Project description:Apoptosome assembly is highly regulated in the intrinsic cell death pathway. To better understand this step, we created an improved model of the human apoptosome using a crystal structure of full length Apaf-1 and a single particle, electron density map at ~9.5 Å resolution. The apoptosome model includes N-terminal domains of Apaf-1, cognate ?-propellers, and cytochrome c. A direct comparison of Apaf-1 in the apoptosome and as a monomer reveals conformational changes that occur during the first two steps of assembly. This includes an induced-fit mechanism for cytochrome c binding to regulatory ?-propellers, which is dependent on shape and charge complementarity, and a large rotation of the nucleotide binding module during nucleotide exchange. These linked conformational changes create an extended Apaf-1 monomer and drive apoptosome assembly. Moreover, the N-terminal CARD in the inactive Apaf-1 monomer is not shielded from other proteins by ?-propellers. Hence, the Apaf-1 CARD may be free to interact with a procaspase-9 CARD either before or during apoptosome assembly. Irrespective of the timing, the end product of assembly is a holo-apoptosome with an acentric CARD-CARD disk and tethered pc-9 catalytic domains. Subsequent activation of pc-9 leads to a proteolytic cascade and cell death.
Project description:Caspases are critical for the initiation and execution of apoptosis. Nitric oxide (NO) or derived species can prevent programmed cell death in several cell types, reportedly through S-nitrosation and inactivation of active caspases. Although we find that S-nitrosation of caspases can occur in vitro, our study questions whether this post-translational modification is solely responsible for NO-mediated inhibition of apoptosis. Indeed, using Jurkat cells as a model system, we demonstrate that NO donors block Fas- and etoposide-induced caspase activation and apoptosis (downstream of mitochondrial membrane depolarization) and cytochrome c release. However, caspase activity was not restored by the strong reducing agent dithiothreitol, as predicted for S-nitrosation reactions, thereby excluding active-site-thiol modification of caspases as the only anti-apoptotic mechanism of NO donors in cells. Rather, we observed that processing of procaspases-9, -3 and -8 was decreased due to ineffective formation of the Apaf-1/caspase-9 apoptosome. Gel-filtration and in vitro binding assays indicated that NO donors inhibit correct assembly of Apaf-1 into an active approx. 700 kDa apoptosome complex, and markedly attenuate caspase-recruitment domain (CARD)-CARD interactions between Apaf-1 and procaspase-9. Therefore we suggest that NO or a metabolite acts directly at the level of the apoptosome and inhibits the sequential activation of caspases-9, -3 and -8, which are required for both stress- and receptor-induced death in cells that use the mitochondrial subroute of cell demise.
Project description:The cytosolic adaptor protein Apaf-1 is a key player in the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis. Binding of mitochondrially released cytochrome c and of dATP or ATP to Apaf-1 induces the formation of the heptameric apoptosome complex, which in turn activates procaspase-9. We have re-investigated the chain of events leading from monomeric autoinhibited Apaf-1 to the functional apoptosome in vitro. We demonstrate that Apaf-1 does not require energy from nucleotide hydrolysis to eventually form the apoptosome. Despite a low intrinsic hydrolytic activity of the autoinhibited Apaf-1 monomer, nucleotide hydrolysis does not occur at any stage of the process. Rather, mere binding of ATP in concert with the binding of cytochrome c primes Apaf-1 for assembly. Contradicting the current view, there is no strict requirement for an adenine base in the nucleotide. On the basis of our results, we present a new model for the mechanism of apoptosome assembly.
Project description:The apoptosome is a platform that activates apical procaspases in response to intrinsic cell death signals. Biochemical and structural studies in the past two decades have extended our understanding of apoptosome composition and structure, while illuminating the requirements for initiator procaspase activation. A number of studies have now provided high-resolution structures for apoptosomes from C. elegans (CED-4), D. melanogaster (Dark), and H. sapiens (Apaf-1), which define critical protein interfaces, including intra and interdomain interactions. This work also reveals interactions of apoptosomes with their respective initiator caspases, CED-3, Dronc and procaspase-9. Structures of the human apoptosome have defined the requirements for cytochrome c binding, which triggers the conversion of inactive Apaf-1 molecules to an extended, assembly competent state. While recent data have provided a detailed understanding of apoptosome formation and procaspase activation, they also highlight important evolutionary differences with functional implications for caspase activation. Comparison of the CARD/CARD disks and apoptosomes formed by CED-4, Dark and Apaf-1. Cartoons of the active states of the CARD-CARD disks, illustrating the two CED-4 CARD tetrameric ring layers (CED4a and CED4b; top row) and the binding of 8 Dronc CARDs and between 3-4 pc-9 CARDs, to the Dark and Apaf-1 CARD disk respectively (middle and lower rows). Ribbon diagrams of the active CED-4, Dark and Apaf-1 apoptosomes are shown (right column).
Project description:Apaf-1-like molecules assemble into a ring-like platform known as the apoptosome. This cell death platform then activates procaspases in the intrinsic cell death pathway. In this review, crystal structures of Apaf-1 monomers and CED-4 dimers have been combined with apoptosome structures to provide insights into the assembly of cell death platforms in humans, nematodes, and flies. In humans, the caspase recognition domains (CARDs) of procaspase-9 and Apaf-1 interact with each other to form a CARD-CARD disk, which interacts with the platform to create an asymmetric proteolysis machine. The disk tethers multiple pc-9 catalytic domains to the platform to raise their local concentration, and this leads to zymogen activation. These findings have now set the stage for further studies of this critical activation process on the apoptosome.
Project description:The protease caspase-9 is activated on the apoptosome, a multiprotein signal transduction platform that assembles in response to mitochondria-dependent apoptosis initiation. Despite extensive molecular research, the assembly of the holo-apoptosome and the process of caspase-9 activation remain incompletely understood. Here, we therefore integrated quantitative data on the molecular interactions and proteolytic processes during apoptosome formation and apoptosis execution and conducted mathematical simulations to investigate the resulting biochemical signaling, quantitatively and kinetically. Interestingly, when implementing the homodimerization of procaspase-9 as a prerequisite for activation, the calculated kinetics of apoptosis execution and the efficacy of caspase-3 activation failed to replicate experimental data. In contrast, assuming a scenario in which procaspase-9 is activated allosterically upon binding to the apoptosome backbone, the mathematical simulations quantitatively and kinetically reproduced all experimental data. These data included a XIAP threshold concentration at which apoptosis execution is suppressed in HeLa cervical cancer cells, half-times of procaspase-9 processing, as well as the molecular timer function of the apoptosome. Our study therefore provides novel mechanistic insight into apoptosome-dependent apoptosis execution and suggests that caspase-9 is activated allosterically by binding to the apoptosome backbone. Our findings challenge the currently prevailing dogma that all initiator procaspases require homodimerization for activation.
Project description:Apaf-1 facilitates the proteolytic activation of procaspase-9 and maintains the hyperactive state of the processed caspase-9. The underlying molecular mechanisms for these activities remain poorly characterized. Here we report that the isolated Apaf-1 caspase recruitment domain (CARD) forms a large hetero-oligomer with the active caspase-9. The catalytic activity of caspase-9 is significantly enhanced in this complex, demonstrating that Apaf-1 CARD allosterically up-regulates caspase-9 activity. Point mutations that inactivate the interactions between Apaf-1 CARD and the prodomain of caspase-9 also abolished the formation of this complex. Based on these observations, we discuss the implications of this complex on the observed Apaf-1 function.
Project description:The execution phase of apoptosis is a critical process in programmed cell death in response to a multitude of cellular stresses. A crucial component of this pathway is the apoptosome, a platform for the activation of pro-caspase 9 (PC9). Recent findings have shown that autocleavage of PC9 to Caspase 9 (C9) p35/p12 not only permits XIAP-mediated C9 inhibition but also temporally shuts down apoptosome activity, forming a molecular timer. In order to delineate the combined contributions of XIAP and the apoptosome molecular timer to apoptosis execution we utilised a systems modelling approach. We demonstrate that cooperative recruitment of PC9 to the apoptosome, based on existing PC9-apoptosome interaction data, is important for efficient formation of PC9 homodimers, autocatalytic cleavage and dual regulation by XIAP and the molecular timer across biologically relevant PC9 and APAF1 concentrations. Screening physiologically relevant concentration ranges of apoptotic proteins, we discovered that the molecular timer can prevent apoptosis execution in specific scenarios after complete or partial mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilisation (MOMP). Furthermore, its ability to prevent apoptosis is intricately tied to a synergistic combination with XIAP. Finally, we demonstrate that simulations of these processes are prognostic of survival in stage III colorectal cancer and that the molecular timer may promote apoptosis resistance in a subset of patients. Based on our findings, we postulate that the physiological function of the molecular timer is to aid XIAP in the shutdown of caspase-mediated apoptosis execution. This shutdown potentially facilitates switching to pro-inflammatory caspase-independent responses subsequent to Bax/Bak pore formation.