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Apoptotic DNA degradation into oligonucleosomal fragments, but not apoptotic nuclear morphology, relies on a cytosolic pool of DFF40/CAD endonuclease.

Iglesias-Guimarais V., Gil-Guinon E., Gabernet G., Garcia-Belinchon M., Sanchez-Osuna M., Casanelles E., Comella J.X., Yuste V.J.

Apoptotic cell death is characterized by nuclear fragmentation and oligonucleosomal DNA degradation, mediated by the caspase-dependent specific activation of DFF40/CAD endonuclease. Here, we describe how, upon apoptotic stimuli, SK-N-AS human neuroblastoma-derived cells show apoptotic nuclear morphology without displaying concomitant internucleosomal DNA fragmentation. Cytotoxicity afforded after staurosporine treatment is comparable with that obtained in SH-SY5Y cells, which exhibit a complete apoptotic phenotype. SK-N-AS cell death is a caspase-dependent process that can be impaired by the pan-caspase inhibitor q-VD-OPh. The endogenous inhibitor of DFF40/CAD, ICAD, is correctly processed, and dff40/cad cDNA sequence does not reveal mutations altering its amino acid composition. Biochemical approaches show that both SH-SY5Y and SK-N-AS resting cells express comparable levels of DFF40/CAD. However, the endonuclease is poorly expressed in the cytosolic fraction of healthy SK-N-AS cells. Despite this differential subcellular distribution of DFF40/CAD, we find no differences in the subcellular localization of both pro-caspase-3 and ICAD between the analyzed cell lines. After staurosporine treatment, the preferential processing of ICAD in the cytosolic fraction allows the translocation of DFF40/CAD from this fraction to a chromatin-enriched one. Therefore, the low levels of cytosolic DFF40/CAD detected in SK-N-AS cells determine the absence of DNA laddering after staurosporine treatment. In these cells DFF40/CAD cytosolic levels can be restored by the overexpression of their own endonuclease, which is sufficient to make them proficient at degrading their chromatin into oligonucleosome-size fragments after staurosporine treatment. Altogether, the cytosolic levels of DFF40/CAD are determinants in achieving a complete apoptotic phenotype, including oligonucleosomal DNA degradation.

J. Biol. Chem. 287:7766-7779(2012) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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