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Copper-induced germline apoptosis in Caenorhabditis elegans: the independent roles of DNA damage response signaling and the dependent roles of MAPK cascades.

Wang S., Wu L., Wang Y., Luo X., Lu Y.

Excess copper is toxic to life. Copper has been shown to induce apoptosis in various cell lines and tissues. However, due to the lack of appropriate gene knockout animal models, data concerning the underlying pathways of copper-induced apoptosis are insufficient, especially with regards to in vivo systems. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is a good model to study basic biological processes, including stress responses and apoptosis. In the present study, we investigated copper-induced germline apoptosis in the C. elegans strains carrying mutated alleles of homologs to known mammalian genes that are involved in apoptosis regulation. We show here that exposing C. elegans to copper causes dose- and time-dependent germline apoptosis. The knockout of checkpoint genes hus-1, clk-2, the Bcl-2 homolog ced-9, and the BH3-only domain egl-1 did not prevent cells of the germline from copper-induced apoptosis. The loss-of-function of the tumor suppressor gene, p53/cep-1, caused a significant increase in germline apoptosis with exposure to copper, and the depletion of p53 antagonist ABL1 significantly enhanced apoptosis. The knockout of the caspase gene ced-3 and the Apaf-1 homolog ced-4 abrogated both copper-induced and physiological germline apoptosis. Germline apoptosis stopped increase in the strains lin-45(ku51), mek-2(n1989), mpk-1(ku1) under copper stresses, respectively. Copper-induced apoptosis was blocked in the loss-of-function alleles of both JNK and p38 MAPK cascades excepting pmk-3, one of the three p38 MAPK components. Together, the results of this study suggest that caspase and Apaf-1 are required for copper-induced germline apoptosis while DNA damage response genes are not essential, and that the Raf-MEK-ERK, ASK1/2-MKK7-JNK, ASK1/2-MKK3/6-p38 signaling pathways are indispensable in mediating this apoptotic response.

Chem. Biol. Interact. 180:151-157(2009) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]