In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the apoptotic machinery is composed of four basic elements: the caspase CED-3, the Apaf-1 homologue CED-4, and the Bcl-2 family members CED-9 and EGL-1. The ced-9(n1950) gain-of-function mutation prevents most, if not all, somatic cell deaths in C. elegans. It encodes a CED-9 protein with a glycine-to-glutamate substitution at position 169, which is located within the highly conserved Bcl-2 homology 1 domain. We performed biochemical analyses with the CED-9G169E protein to gain insight into the mechanism of programmed cell death. We find that CED-9G169E retains the ability to bind both EGL-1 and CED-4, although its affinity for EGL-1 is reduced. In contrast to the behavior of wild-type CED-9, the interaction between CED-9G169E and CED-4 is not disrupted by expression of EGL-1. Furthermore, CED-4 and CED-9G169E co-localizes with EGL-1 to the mitochondria in mammalian cells, and expression of EGL-1 does not induce translocation of CED-4 to the cytosol. Finally, the ability of EGL-1 to promote apoptosis is impaired by the replacement of wild-type CED-9 with CED-9G169E, and this effect is correlated with the inability of EGL-1 to induce the displacement of CED-4 from the CED-9·CED-4 complex. These studies suggest that the release of CED-4 from the CED-9·CED-4 complex is a necessary step for induction of programmed cell death in C. elegans.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology