Bcl-2 rescues ceramide- and etoposide-induced mitochondrial apoptosis through blockage of caspase-2 activation

Chiou Feng Lin, Chia Ling Chen, Wen Tsan Chang, Ming Shiou Jan, Li Jin Hsu, Ren Huang Wu, Yi Ting Fang, Ming Jer Tang, Wen Chang Chang, Yee Shin Lin

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55 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies indicate that caspase-2 is involved in the early stage of apoptosis before mitochondrial damage. Although the activation of caspase-2 has been shown to occur in a large protein complex, the mechanisms of caspase-2 activation remain unclear. Here we report a regulatory role of Bcl-2 on caspase-2 upstream of mitochondria. Stress stimuli, including ceramide and etoposide, caused caspase-2 activation, mitochondrial damage followed by downstream caspase-9 and -3 activation, and cell apoptosis in human lung epithelial cell line A549. When A549 cells were pretreated with the caspase-2 inhibitor benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Asp(-OMe)-Val-Ala-Asp(-OMe)-fluoromethyl ketone or transfected with caspase-2 short interfering RNA, both ceramide- and etoposide-induced mitochondrial damage and apoptosis were blocked. Overexpression of Bcl-2 prevented ceramide- and etoposide-induced caspase-2 activation and mitochondrial apoptosis. Furthermore, caspase-2 was activated when A549 cells were introduced with Bcl-2 short interfering RNA or were treated with Bcl-2 inhibitor, which provided direct evidence of a negative regulatory effect of Bcl-2 on caspase-2. Cell survival was observed when caspase-2 was inhibited in Bcl-2-silencing cells. Blockage of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore and caspase-9 demonstrated that Bcl-2-modulated caspase-2 activity occurred upstream of mitochondria. Further studies showed that Bcl-2 was dephosphorylated at serine 70 after ceramide and etoposide treatment. A protein phosphatase inhibitor, okadaic acid, rescued Bcl-2 dephosphorylation and blocked caspase-2 activation, mitochondrial damage, and cell death. Taken together, ceramide and etoposide induced mitochondria-mediated apoptosis by initiating caspase-2 activation, which was, at least in part, regulated by Bcl-2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23758-23765
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number25
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Jun 24

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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