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C-Myc Protein Synthesis Is Initiated From The Internal Ribosome Entry Segment During Apoptosis

Mark Stoneley, Stephen A. Chappell, Catherine L. Jopling, Martin Dickens, Marion MacFarlane, Anne E. Willis

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ABSTRACT Recent studies have shown that during apoptosis protein synthesis is inhibited and that this is in part due to the proteolytic cleavage of eukaryotic initiation factor 4G (eIF4G). Initiation of translation can occur either by a cap-dependent mechanism or by internal ribosome entry. The latter mechanism is dependent on a complex structural element located in the 5′ untranslated region of the mRNA which is termed an internal ribosome entry segment (IRES). In general, IRES-mediated translation does not require eIF4E or full-length eIF4G. In order to investigate whether cap-dependent and cap-independent translation are reduced during apoptosis, we examined the expression of c-Myc during this process, since we have shown previously that the 5′ untranslated region of the c-myc proto-oncogene contains an IRES. c-Myc expression was determined in HeLa cells during apoptosis induced by tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand. We have demonstrated that the c-Myc protein is still expressed when more than 90% of the cells are apoptotic. The presence of the protein in apoptotic cells does not result from either an increase in protein stability or an increase in expression of c-myc mRNA. Furthermore, we show that during apoptosis initiation of c-myc translation occurs by internal ribosome entry. We have investigated the signaling pathways that are involved in this response, and cotransfection with plasmids which harbor either wild-type or constitutively active MKK6, a specific immediate upstream activator of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), increases IRES-mediated translation. In addition, the c-myc IRES is inhibited by SB203580, a specific inhibitor of p38 MAPK. Our data, therefore, strongly suggest that the initiation of translation via the c-myc IRES during apoptosis is mediated by the p38 MAPK pathway.