Molecular cloning and pro-apoptotic activity of ICErelII and ICErelIII, members of the ICE/CED-3 family of cysteine proteases.
Cysteine proteases related to mammalian interleukin-1 beta-converting enzyme (ICE) and the nematode cell death abnormal ced-3 gene product have been implicated in the effector mechanism of apoptotic cell death. Two novel members of this new family of ICE/CED-3-related proteases, designated ICErel-II and ICErel-III, were cloned from human monocytic cells. Both were highly homologous to human ICE (52% identical) and CED-3 (25% identical) and both contained the absolutely conserved pentapeptide sequence Gln-Ala-Cys-Arg-Asp containing the catalytic cysteine residue. Other structural motifs that were comparable with ICE suggest that ICErel-II and ICErel-III are also synthesized as larger proenzymes which are proteolytically processed to form heterodimeric active enzymes. Pro-interleukin-1 beta processing activity could not be detected in cells transfected with ICErel-II or ICErel-III, but pro-domain-less truncated forms of ICErel-II and ICErel-III were capable of effectively inducing fibroblast apoptosis. ICErel-II and ICErel-III may, therefore, participate in proteolytic events culminating in the apoptotic death of human cells.