Dual role of BRUCE as an antiapoptotic IAP and a chimeric E2/E3 ubiquitin ligase.
Apoptotic cell death and survival is controlled by pro- and antiapoptotic proteins. Because these proteins act on each other, cell fate is dictated by the relative activity of pro-versus antiapoptotic proteins. Here we report that BRUCE, a conserved 528 kDa peripheral membrane protein of the trans-Golgi network, protects cells against apoptosis and functions as an inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP). By using wild-type and mutant forms we show that BRUCE inhibits caspase activity and apoptosis depending on its BIR domain. Upon apoptosis induction, BRUCE is antagonized by three mechanisms: first, through binding to Smac; second, by the protease HtrA2; and third, by caspase-mediated cleavage. In addition to its IAP activity BRUCE has the distinctive property of functioning as a chimeric E2/E3 ubiquitin ligase with Smac being a substrate. Our work suggests that, owing to its two activities and its localization, BRUCE may function as a specialized regulator of cell death pathways.