Apoptosis initiated by Bcl-2-regulated caspase activation independently of the cytochrome c/Apaf-1/caspase-9 apoptosome.
Marsden VS., O'Connor L., O'Reilly LA., Silke J., Metcalf D., Ekert PG., Huang DCS., Cecconi F., Kuida K., Tomaselli KJ., Roy S., Nicholson DW., Vaux DL., Bouillet P., Adams JM., Strasser A.
Apoptosis is an evolutionarily conserved cell suicide process executed by cysteine proteases (caspases) and regulated by the opposing factions of the Bcl-2 protein family. Mammalian caspase-9 and its activator Apaf-1 were thought to be essential, because mice lacking either of them display neuronal hyperplasia and their lymphocytes and fibroblasts seem resistant to certain apoptotic stimuli. Because Apaf-1 requires cytochrome c to activate caspase-9, and Bcl-2 prevents mitochondrial cytochrome c release, Bcl-2 is widely believed to inhibit apoptosis by safeguarding mitochondrial membrane integrity. Our results suggest a different, broader role, because Bcl-2 overexpression increased lymphocyte numbers in mice and inhibited many apoptotic stimuli, but the absence of Apaf-1 or caspase-9 did not. Caspase activity was still discernible in cells lacking Apaf-1 or caspase-9, and a potent caspase antagonist both inhibited apoptosis and retarded cytochrome c release. We conclude that Bcl-2 regulates a caspase activation programme independently of the cytochrome c/Apaf-1/caspase-9 'apoptosome', which seems to amplify rather than initiate the caspase cascade.