Structure of the apoptosome: mechanistic insights into activation of an initiator caspase from Drosophila.
ABSTRACT: Apoptosis is executed by a cascade of caspase activation. The autocatalytic activation of an initiator caspase, exemplified by caspase-9 in mammals or its ortholog, Dronc, in fruit flies, is facilitated by a multimeric adaptor complex known as the apoptosome. The underlying mechanism by which caspase-9 or Dronc is activated by the apoptosome remains unknown. Here we report the electron cryomicroscopic (cryo-EM) structure of the intact apoptosome from Drosophila melanogaster at 4.0 Å resolution. Analysis of the Drosophila apoptosome, which comprises 16 molecules of the Dark protein (Apaf-1 ortholog), reveals molecular determinants that support the assembly of the 2.5-MDa complex. In the absence of dATP or ATP, Dronc zymogen potently induces formation of the Dark apoptosome, within which Dronc is efficiently activated. At 4.1 Å resolution, the cryo-EM structure of the Dark apoptosome bound to the caspase recruitment domain (CARD) of Dronc (Dronc-CARD) reveals two stacked rings of Dronc-CARD that are sandwiched between two octameric rings of the Dark protein. The specific interactions between Dronc-CARD and both the CARD and the WD40 repeats of a nearby Dark protomer are indispensable for Dronc activation. These findings reveal important mechanistic insights into the activation of initiator caspase by the apoptosome.
Project description:Apoptosis is an evolutionary conserved cell death mechanism, which requires activation of initiator and effector caspases. The Drosophila initiator caspase Dronc, the ortholog of mammalian Caspase-2 and Caspase-9, has an N-terminal CARD domain that recruits Dronc into the apoptosome for activation. In addition to its role in apoptosis, Dronc also has non-apoptotic functions such as compensatory proliferation. One mechanism to control the activation of Dronc is ubiquitylation. However, the mechanistic details of ubiquitylation of Dronc are less clear. For example, monomeric inactive Dronc is subject to non-degradative ubiquitylation in living cells, while ubiquitylation of active apoptosome-bound Dronc triggers its proteolytic degradation in apoptotic cells. Here, we examined the role of non-degradative ubiquitylation of Dronc in living cells in vivo, i.e. in the context of a multi-cellular organism. Our in vivo data suggest that in living cells Dronc is mono-ubiquitylated on Lys78 (K78) in its CARD domain. This ubiquitylation prevents activation of Dronc in the apoptosome and protects cells from apoptosis. Furthermore, K78 ubiquitylation plays an inhibitory role for non-apoptotic functions of Dronc. We provide evidence that not all of the non-apoptotic functions of Dronc require its catalytic activity. In conclusion, we demonstrate a mechanism whereby Dronc's apoptotic and non-apoptotic activities can be kept silenced in a non-degradative manner through a single ubiquitylation event in living cells.
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:The Drosophila Apaf-1 related killer forms an apoptosome in the intrinsic cell death pathway. In this study we show that Dark forms a single ring when initiator procaspases are bound. This Dark-Dronc complex cleaves DrICE efficiently; hence, a single ring represents the Drosophila apoptosome. We then determined the 3D structure of a double ring at ?6.9 Å resolution and created a model of the apoptosome. Subunit interactions in the Dark complex are similar to those in Apaf-1 and CED-4 apoptosomes, but there are significant differences. In particular, Dark has "lost" a loop in the nucleotide-binding pocket, which opens a path for possible dATP exchange in the apoptosome. In addition, caspase recruitment domains (CARDs) form a crown on the central hub of the Dark apoptosome. This CARD geometry suggests that conformational changes will be required to form active Dark-Dronc complexes. When taken together, these data provide insights into apoptosome structure, function, and evolution.
Project description:Mammalian intrinsic apoptosis requires activation of the initiator caspase-9, which then cleaves and activates the effector caspases to execute cell killing. The heptameric Apaf-1 apoptosome is indispensable for caspase-9 activation by together forming a holoenzyme. The molecular mechanism of caspase-9 activation remains largely enigmatic. Here, we report the cryoelectron microscopy (cryo-EM) structure of an apoptotic holoenzyme and structure-guided biochemical analyses. The caspase recruitment domains (CARDs) of Apaf-1 and caspase-9 assemble in two different ways: a 4:4 complex docks onto the central hub of the apoptosome, and a 2:1 complex binds the periphery of the central hub. The interface between the CARD complex and the central hub is required for caspase-9 activation within the holoenzyme. Unexpectedly, the CARD of free caspase-9 strongly inhibits its proteolytic activity. These structural and biochemical findings demonstrate that the apoptosome activates caspase-9 at least in part through sequestration of the inhibitory CARD domain.
Project description:Drosophila have been used to identify new components in apoptosis regulation. The Drosophila protein Dark forms an octameric apoptosome complex that induces the initiator caspase Dronc to trigger the caspase cell death pathway and, therefore, plays an important role in controlling apoptosis. Caspases and Dark are constantly expressed in cells, but their activity is blocked by DIAP1 E3 ligase-mediated ubiquitination and subsequent inactivation or proteasomal degradation. One of the regulatory mechanisms that stabilize proapoptotic factors is the removal of ubiquitin chains by deubiquitinases. In this study performed a modified genetic screen for deubiquitinases (dsRNA lines) to identify those involved in stabilizing proapoptotic components. Loss-of-function alleles of deubiquitinase DUSP31 were identified as suppressors of the Dronc overexpression phenotype. DUSP31 deficiency also suppresses apoptosis induced by the RHG protein, Grim. Genetic analysis revealed for the first time that DUSP31 deficiency sufficiently suppresses the Dark phenotype, indicating its involvement in the control of Dark/Dronc apoptosome function in invertebrate apoptosis.
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:Apoptosis is induced by caspases, which are members of the cysteine protease family. Caspases are synthesized as inactive zymogens and initiator caspases first gain activity by associating with an oligomeric complex of their adaptor proteins, such as the apoptosome. Activated initiator caspases subsequently cleave and activate effector caspases. Although such a proteolytic cascade would predict that a small number of active caspases could irreversibly amplify caspase activity and trigger apoptosis, many cells can maintain moderate levels of caspase activity to perform non-apoptotic roles in cellular differentiation, shape change and migration. Here we show that the Drosophila melanogaster apoptosome engages in a feedback inhibitory loop, which moderates its activation level in vivo. Specifically, the adaptor protein Apaf-1 lowers the level of its associated initiator caspase Dronc, without triggering apoptosis. Conversely, Dronc lowers Apaf-1 protein levels. This mutual suppression depends on the catalytic site of Dronc and a caspase cleavage site within Apaf-1. Moreover, the Drosophila inhibitor of apoptosis protein 1 (Diap1) is required for this process. We speculate that this feedback inhibition allows cells to regulate the degree of caspase activation for apoptotic and non-apoptotic purposes.
Project description:While earlier studies of Apaf-1 holo-apoptosome architecture revealed the spectacular heptameric wheel-like structure formed by Apaf-1, the central CARD disk responsible for caspase-9 recruitment remained incompletely resolved. In a recent issue of Structure, Su et al. (2017) describe a crystal structure of the complex between Apaf-1 CARD and caspase-9 CARD. Together with two recent cryo-EM structures, this work brings us closer to a full view of the holo-apoptosome.
Project description:Caspases perform critical functions in both living and dying cells; however, how caspases perform physiological functions without killing the cell remains unclear. Here we identify a novel physiological function of caspases at the cortex of Drosophila salivary glands. In living glands, activation of the initiator caspase dronc triggers cortical F-actin dismantling, enabling the glands to stretch as they accumulate secreted products in the lumen. We demonstrate that tango7, not the canonical Apaf-1-adaptor dark, regulates dronc activity at the cortex; in contrast, dark is required for cytoplasmic activity of dronc during salivary gland death. Therefore, tango7 and dark define distinct subcellular domains of caspase activity. Furthermore, tango7-dependent cortical dronc activity is initiated by a sublethal pulse of the inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP) antagonist reaper. Our results support a model in which biological outcomes of caspase activation are regulated by differential amplification of IAP antagonists, unique caspase adaptor proteins, and mutually exclusive subcellular domains of caspase activity.Caspases are known for their role in cell death, but they can also participate in other physiological functions without killing the cells. Here the authors show that unique caspase adaptor proteins can regulate caspase activity within mutually-exclusive and independently regulated subcellular domains.
Project description: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.