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Caspase-3 Is The Primary Activator Of Apoptotic DNA Fragmentation Via DNA Fragmentation Factor-45/Inhibitor Of Caspase-activated DNase Inactivation*

Beni B Wolf, M. Schuler, F. Echeverri, D. Green
Published 1999 · Biology, Medicine

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Caspase-3 initiates apoptotic DNA fragmentation by proteolytically inactivating DFF45 (DNA fragmentation factor-45)/ICAD (inhibitor of caspase-activated DNase), which releases active DFF40/CAD (caspase-activated DNase), the inhibitor's associated endonuclease. Here, we examined whether other apoptotic proteinases initiated DNA fragmentation via DFF45/ICAD inactivation. In a cell-free assay, caspases-3, -6, -7, -8, and granzyme B initiated benzoyloxycarbonyl-Asp-Glu-Val-Asp (DEVD) cleaving caspase activity, DFF45/ICAD inactivation, and DNA fragmentation, but calpain and cathepsin D failed to initiate these events. Strikingly, only the DEVD cleaving caspases, caspase-3 and caspase-7, inactivated DFF45/ICAD and promoted DNA fragmentation in an in vitro DFF40/CAD assay, suggesting that granzyme B, caspase-6, and caspase-8 promote DFF45/ICAD inactivation and DNA fragmentation indirectly by activating caspase-3 and/or caspase-7. In vitro, however, caspase-3 inactivated DFF45/ICAD and promoted DNA fragmentation more effectively than caspase-7 and endogenous levels of caspase-7 failed to inactivate DFF45/ICAD in caspase-3 null MCF7 cells and extracts. Together, these data suggest that caspase-3 is the primary inactivator of DFF45/ICAD and therefore the primary activator of apoptotic DNA fragmentation.
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