Mechanistic insights into caspase-9 activation by the structure of the apoptosome holoenzyme.
ABSTRACT: 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:Apaf-1 coassembles with cytochrome c to form the apoptosome, which then binds and activates procaspase-9 (pc-9). We removed pc-9 catalytic domains from the holoapoptosome by site-directed thrombinolysis. A structure of the resulting apoptosome-pc-9 CARD complex was then determined at approximately 9.5 A resolution. In our model, the central hub is constructed like other AAA+ protein rings but also contains novel features. At higher radius, the regulatory region of each Apaf-1 is comprised of tandem seven and eight blade beta-propellers with cytochrome c docked between them. Remarkably, Apaf-1 CARDs are disordered in the ground state. During activation, each Apaf-1 CARD interacts with a pc-9 CARD and these heterodimers form a flexibly tethered "disk" that sits above the central hub. When taken together, the data reveal conformational changes during Apaf-1 assembly that allow pc-9 activation. The model also provides a plausible explanation for the effects of NOD mutations that have been mapped onto the central hub.
Project description:Activation of procaspase-9 on the apoptosome is a pivotal step in the intrinsic cell death pathway. We now provide further evidence that caspase recruitment domains of pc-9 and Apaf-1 form a CARD-CARD disk that is flexibly tethered to the apoptosome. In addition, a 3D reconstruction of the pc-9 apoptosome was calculated without symmetry restraints. In this structure, p20 and p10 catalytic domains of a single pc-9 interact with nucleotide binding domains of adjacent Apaf-1 subunits. Together, disk assembly and pc-9 binding create an asymmetric proteolysis machine. We also show that CARD-p20 and p20-p10 linkers play important roles in pc-9 activation. Based on the data, we propose a proximity-induced association model for pc-9 activation on the apoptosome. We also show that pc-9 and caspase-3 have overlapping binding sites on the central hub. These binding sites may play a role in pc-3 activation and could allow the formation of hybrid apoptosomes with pc-9 and caspase-3 proteolytic activities.
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: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:In response to cell death signals, an active apoptosome is assembled from Apaf-1 and procaspase-9 (pc-9). Here we report a near atomic structure of the active human apoptosome determined by cryo-electron microscopy. The resulting model gives insights into cytochrome c binding, nucleotide exchange and conformational changes that drive assembly. During activation an acentric disk is formed on the central hub of the apoptosome. This disk contains four Apaf-1/pc-9 CARD pairs arranged in a shallow spiral with the fourth pc-9 CARD at lower occupancy. On average, Apaf-1 CARDs recruit 3 to 5 pc-9 molecules to the apoptosome and one catalytic domain may be parked on the hub, when an odd number of zymogens are bound. This suggests a stoichiometry of one or at most, two pc-9 dimers per active apoptosome. Thus, our structure provides a molecular framework to understand the role of the apoptosome in programmed cell death and disease.
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: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: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: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.