Regulation of mitochondrial ceramide distribution by members of the BCL-2 family.
ABSTRACT: Apoptosis is an intricately regulated cellular process that proceeds through different cell type- and signal-dependent pathways. In the mitochondrial apoptotic program, mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization by BCL-2 proteins leads to the release of apoptogenic factors, caspase activation, and cell death. In addition to protein components of the mitochondrial apoptotic machinery, an interesting role for lipids and lipid metabolism in BCL-2 family-regulated apoptosis is also emerging. We used a comparative lipidomics approach to uncover alterations in lipid profile in the absence of the proapoptotic proteins BAX and BAK in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). We detected over 1,000 ions in these experiments and found changes in an ion with an m/z of 534.49. Structural elucidation of this ion through tandem mass spectrometry revealed that this molecule is a ceramide with a 16-carbon N-acyl chain and sphingadiene backbone (d18:2/16:0 ceramide). Targeted LC/MS analysis revealed elevated levels of additional sphingadiene-containing ceramides (d18:2-Cers) in BAX, BAK-double knockout MEFs. Elevated d18:2-Cers are also found in immortalized baby mouse kidney epithelial cells lacking BAX and BAK. These results support the existence of a distinct biochemical pathway for regulating ceramides with different backbone structures and suggest that sphingadiene-containing ceramides may have functions that are distinct from the more common sphingosine-containing species.
Project description:The BCL-2 family members BAK and BAX are required for apoptosis and trigger mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP). Here we identify a MOMP-independent function of BAK as a required factor for long-chain ceramide production in response to pro-apoptotic stress. UV-C irradiation of wild-type (WT) cells increased long-chain ceramides; blocking ceramide generation prevented caspase activation and cell death, demonstrating that long-chain ceramides play a key role in UV-C-induced apoptosis. In contrast, UV-C irradiation did not increase long-chain ceramides in BAK and BAX double knock-out cells. Notably, this was not specific to the cell type (baby mouse kidney cells, hematopoietic) nor the apoptotic stimulus employed (UV-C, cisplatin, and growth factor withdrawal). Importantly, long-chain ceramide generation was dependent on the presence of BAK, but not BAX. However, ceramide generation was independent of the known downstream actions of BAK in apoptosis (MOMP or caspase activation), suggesting a novel role for BAK in apoptosis. Finally, enzymatic assays identified ceramide synthase as the mechanism by which BAK regulates ceramide metabolism. There was no change in CerS expression at the message or protein level, indicating regulation at the post-translational level. Moreover, CerS activity in BAK KO microsomes can be reactivated upon addition of BAK-containing microsomes. The data presented indicate that ceramide-induced apoptosis is dependent upon BAK and identify a novel role for BAK during apoptosis. By establishing a unique role for BAK in long-chain ceramide metabolism, these studies further demonstrate that the seemingly redundant proteins BAK and BAX have distinct mechanisms of action during apoptosis induction.
Project description:Determining mechanistic details about how drugs kill cancer cells is critical for predicting which cancers will respond to given therapeutic regimens and for identifying effective combinations of drugs that more potently kill cancer cells while sparing normal cells. The BCL2 family of proteins and bioactive sphingolipids are intricately linked during apoptotic cell death. In fact, many chemotherapeutic drugs are known to cause accumulation of the pro-apoptotic sphingolipid ceramide; however, the mechanism by which this occurs is not completely understood. In the present study we demonstrate that direct inhibition of anti-apoptotic BCL2 proteins with ABT-263 is sufficient to induce C(16)-ceramide synthesis in multiple cell lines, including human leukaemia and myeloma cells. ABT-263 activates CerS (ceramide synthase) activity only in cells expressing BAK or in cells capable of activating BAK. Importantly, recombinant BAK is sufficient to increase in vitro CerS activity in microsomes purified from Bak-KO (knockout) cells and activated BAK more potently activates CerS than inactive BAK. Likewise, ABT-263 addition to wild-type, but not Bak-deficient, microsomes increases CerS in vitro activity. Furthermore, we present a feed-forward model by which BAK activation of CerS by chemotherapeutic drugs leads to elevated ceramide levels that result in synergistic channel formation by ceramide (or one of its metabolites) and BAX/BAK.
Project description:Although murine embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) with Bax or Bak deleted displayed no defect in apoptosis signaling, MEFs with Bax and Bak double knock-out (DKO) showed dramatic resistance to diverse apoptotic stimuli, suggesting that Bax and Bak are redundant but essential regulators for apoptosis signaling. Chelerythrine has recently been identified as a Bcl-xL inhibitor that is capable of triggering apoptosis via direct action on mitochondria. Here we report that in contrast to classic apoptotic stimuli, chelerythrine is fully competent in inducing apoptosis in the DKO MEFs. Wild-type and DKO MEFs are equally sensitive to chelerythrine-induced morphological and biochemical changes associated with apoptosis phenotype. Interestingly, chelerythrine-mediated release of cytochrome c is rapid and precedes Bax translocation and integration. Although the BH3 peptide of Bim is totally inactive in releasing cytochrome c from isolated mitochondria of DKO MEFs, chelerythrine maintains its potency and efficacy in inducing direct release of cytochrome c from these mitochondria. Furthermore, chelerythrine-mediated mitochondrial swelling and loss in mitochondrial membrane potential (DeltaPsi(m)) are inhibited by cyclosporine A, suggesting that mitochondrial permeability transition pore is involved in chelerythrine-induced apoptosis. Although certain apoptotic stimuli have been shown to elicit cytotoxic effect in the DKO MEFs through alternate death mechanisms, chelerythrine does not appear to engage necrotic or autophagic death mechanism to trigger cell death in the DKO MEFs. These results, thus, argue for the existence of an alternative Bax/Bak-independent apoptotic mechanism that involves cyclosporine A-sensitive mitochondrial membrane permeability.
Project description:The canonical function of Bcl-2 family proteins is to regulate mitochondrial membrane integrity. In response to apoptotic signals the multi-domain pro-apoptotic proteins Bax and Bak are activated and perforate the mitochondrial outer membrane by a mechanism which is inhibited by their interaction with pro-survival members of the family. However, other studies have shown that Bax and Bak may have additional, non-canonical functions, which include stress-induced nuclear envelope rupture and discharge of nuclear proteins into the cytosol. We show here that the apoptotic stimuli cisplatin and staurosporine induce a Bax/Bak-dependent degradation and subcellular redistribution of nesprin-1 and nesprin-2 but not nesprin-3, of the linker of nucleoskeleton and cytoskeleton (LINC) complex. The degradation and redistribution were caspase-independent and did not occur in Bax/Bak double knockout (DKO) mouse embryo fibroblasts (MEFs). Re-expression of Bax in Bax/Bak DKO MEFs restored stress-induced redistribution of nesprin-2 by a mechanism which requires Bax membrane localization and integrity of the ? helices 5/6, and the Bcl-2 homology 3 (BH3) domain. We found that nesprin-2 interacts with Bax in close proximity to perinuclear mitochondria in mouse and human cells. This interaction requires the mitochondrial targeting and N-terminal region but not the BH3 domain of Bax. Our results identify nesprin-2 as a Bax binding partner and also a new function of Bax in impairing the integrity of the LINC complex.
Project description:Ceramide is a bioactive sphingolipid involved in mitochondrial-mediated apoptosis. Our data suggest that ceramides directly regulate a key initiation step in apoptosis: mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP). MOMP allows release of intermembrane space proteins to the cytosol, inducing the execution of the cell. Ceramides form channels in planar phospholipid membranes and outer membranes of isolated mitochondria, channels large enough to facilitate passage of proteins released during MOMP. Bcl-xL inhibits MOMP in vivo and inhibits the formation of ceramide channels in vitro. However the significance of Bcl-xL's regulation of ceramide channel formation within cells was untested. We engineered Bcl-xL point mutations that specifically affect the interaction between ceramide and Bcl-xL to probe the mechanism of ceramide channel regulation and the role of ceramide channels in apoptosis. Using these mutants and fluorescently-labeled ceramide, we identified the hydrophobic groove on Bcl-xL as the critical ceramide binding site and regulator of ceramide channel formation. Bcl-xL mutants with weakened interaction with ceramide also have reduced ability to interfere with ceramide channel formation. Some mutants have similar altered ability to inhibit both ceramide and Bax channel formation, whereas others act differentially, suggesting distinct but overlapping binding sites. To probe the relative importance of these channels in apoptosis, Bcl-xL mutant proteins were stably expressed in Bcl-xL deficient cells. Weakening the inhibition of either Bax or ceramide channels decreased the ability of Bcl-xL to protect cells from apoptosis in a stimulus-dependent manner. These studies provide the first in vivo evidence for the role of ceramide channels in MOMP.
Project description:Bnip3 is a pro-apoptotic member of the Bcl-2 family that is down-regulated in pancreatic cancers, which correlates with resistance to chemotherapy and a worsened prognosis. In contrast, Bnip3 is up-regulated in heart failure and contributes to loss of myocardial cells during I/R (ischaemia/reperfusion). Bnip3 exerts its action at the mitochondria, but the mechanism by which Bnip3 mediates mitochondrial dysfunction is not clear. In the present study, we have identified Bax and Bak as downstream effectors of Bnip3-mediated mitochondrial dysfunction. Bnip3 plays a role in hypoxia-mediated cell death, but MEFs (mouse embryonic fibroblasts) derived from mice deficient in Bax and Bak were completely resistant to hypoxia even with substantial up-regulation of Bnip3. These cells were also resistant to Bnip3 overexpression, but re-expression of Bax or Bak restored susceptibility to Bnip3, suggesting that Bnip3 can act via either Bax or Bak. In contrast, Bnip3 overexpression in wild-type MEFs induced mitochondrial dysfunction with loss of membrane potential and release of cytochrome c. Cell death by Bnip3 was reduced in the presence of mPTP (mitochondrial permeability transition pore) inhibitors, but did not prevent Bnip3-mediated activation of Bax or Bak. Moreover, overexpression of Bnip3DeltaTM, a dominant-negative form of Bnip3, reduced translocation of GFP (green fluorescent protein)-Bax to mitochondria during sI/R (simulated I/R) in HL-1 myocytes. Similarly, down-regulation of Bnip3 using RNA interference decreased activation of Bax in response to sI/R in HL-1 myocytes. These results suggest that Bnip3 mediates mitochondrial dysfunction through activation of Bax or Bak which is independent of mPTP opening.
Project description:Truncated BID (tBID), a proapoptotic BCL2 family protein, induces BAK/BAX-dependent release of cytochrome c and other mitochondrial intermembrane proteins to the cytosol to induce apoptosis. The voltage-dependent anion channels (VDACs) are the primary gates for solutes across the outer mitochondrial membrane (OMM); however, their role in apoptotic OMM permeabilization remains controversial. Here, we report that VDAC2(-/-) (V2(-/-)) mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) are virtually insensitive to tBID-induced OMM permeabilization and apoptosis, whereas VDAC1(-/-), VDAC3(-/-) and VDAC1(-/-)/VDAC3(-/-) MEFs respond normally to tBID. V2(-/-) MEFs regain tBID sensitivity after VDAC2 expression. Furthermore, V2(-/-) MEFs are deficient in mitochondrial BAK despite normal tBID-mitochondrial binding and BAX/BAK expression. tBID sensitivity of BAK(-/-) MEFs is also reduced, although not to the same extent as V2(-/-) MEFs, which might result from their strong overexpression of BAX. Indeed, addition of recombinant BAX also sensitized V2(-/-) MEFs to tBID. Thus, VDAC2 acts as a crucial component in mitochondrial apoptosis by allowing the mitochondrial recruitment of BAK, thereby controlling tBID-induced OMM permeabilization and cell death.
Project description:Lipids display large structural complexity, with ?40,000 different lipids identified to date, ?4000 of which are sphingolipids. A critical factor determining the biological activities of the sphingolipid, ceramide, and of more complex sphingolipids is their N-acyl chain length, which in mammals is determined by a family of six ceramide synthases (CerS). Little information is available about the CerS regions that determine specificity toward different acyl-CoA substrates. We previously demonstrated that substrate specificity resides in a region of ?150 residues in the Tram-Lag-CLN8 domain. Using site-directed mutagenesis and biochemical analyses, we now narrow specificity down to an 11-residue sequence in a loop located between the last two putative transmembrane domains (TMDs) of the CerS. The specificity of a chimeric protein, CerS5(299-309?CerS2), based on the backbone of CerS5 (which generates C16-ceramide), but containing 11 residues from CerS2 (which generates C22-C24-ceramides), was altered such that it generated C22-C24 and other ceramides. Moreover, a chimeric protein, CerS4(291-301?CerS2), based on CerS4 (which normally generates C18-C22 ceramides) displayed significant activity toward C24:1-CoA. Additional data supported the notion that substitutions of these 11 residues alter the specificities of the CerS toward their cognate acyl-CoAs. Our findings may suggest that this short loop may restrict adjacent TMDs, leading to a more open conformation in the membrane, and that the CerS acting on shorter acyl-CoAs may have a longer, more flexible loop, permitting TMD flexibility. In summary, we have identified an 11-residue region that determines the acyl-CoA specificity of CerS.
Project description:The sphingolipid ceramide has been widely implicated in the regulation of programmed cell death or apoptosis. The accumulation of ceramide has been demonstrated in a wide variety of experimental models of apoptosis and in response to a myriad of stimuli and cellular stresses. However, the detailed mechanisms of its generation and regulatory role during apoptosis are poorly understood. We sought to determine the regulation and roles of ceramide production in a model of ultraviolet light-C (UV-C)-induced programmed cell death. We found that UV-C irradiation induces the accumulation of multiple sphingolipid species including ceramide, dihydroceramide, sphingomyelin, and hexosylceramide. Late ceramide generation was also found to be regulated by Bcl-xL, Bak, and caspases. Surprisingly, inhibition of de novo synthesis using myriocin or fumonisin B1 resulted in decreased overall cellular ceramide levels basally and in response to UV-C, but only fumonisin B1 inhibited cell death, suggesting the presence of a ceramide synthase (CerS)-dependent, sphingosine-derived pool of ceramide in regulating programmed cell death. We found that this pool did not regulate the mitochondrial pathway, but it did partially regulate activation of caspase-7 and, more importantly, was necessary for late plasma membrane permeabilization. Attempting to identify the CerS responsible for this effect, we found that combined knockdown of CerS5 and CerS6 was able to decrease long-chain ceramide accumulation and plasma membrane permeabilization. These data identify a novel role for CerS and the sphingosine salvage pathway in regulating membrane permeability in the execution phase of programmed cell death.
Project description:Calcium oscillations exert physiological control on mitochondrial energy metabolism and can also lead to mitochondrial membrane permeabilization and cell death. The outcome of the mitochondrial calcium signaling is altered by stress factors such as ceramide or staurosporine. However, the mechanism of this proapoptotic switch remains unclear. Using genetic, biochemical, pharmacological, and functional approaches, we here show that ceramide and staurosporine target PP2A and protein kinases A and C, respectively, in a mitochondria-associated signaling complex to induce dephosphorylation of the BH3-only protein Bad. Dephosphorylated Bad sensitizes the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (PTP) to Ca2+ through a Bcl-xL-sensitive and VDAC-mediated process. Furthermore, the Bad-induced sensitization of the PTP to Ca2+ does not require Bax or Bak. Thus, phospho-regulatory mechanisms converge on Bad to switch between the survival and apoptotic functions of mitochondrial calcium signaling by activating a mechanism whereby a BH3-only protein bypasses Bax/Bak and engages the PTP.