Bcl-2-regulated apoptosis and cytochrome c release can occur independently of both caspase-2 and caspase-9.
Marsden VS., Ekert PG., Van Delft M., Vaux DL., Adams JM., Strasser A.
Apoptosis in response to developmental cues and stress stimuli is mediated by caspases that are regulated by the Bcl-2 protein family. Although caspases 2 and 9 have each been proposed as the apical caspase in that pathway, neither is indispensable for the apoptosis of leukocytes or fibroblasts. To investigate whether these caspases share a redundant role in apoptosis initiation, we generated caspase-2(-/-)9(-/-) mice. Their overt phenotype, embryonic brain malformation and perinatal lethality mirrored that of caspase-9(-/-) mice but were not exacerbated. Analysis of adult mice reconstituted with caspase-2(-/-)9(-/-) hematopoietic cells revealed that the absence of both caspases did not influence hematopoietic development. Furthermore, lymphocytes and fibroblasts lacking both remained sensitive to diverse apoptotic stimuli. Dying caspase-2(-/-)9(-/-) lymphocytes displayed multiple hallmarks of caspase-dependent apoptosis, including the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria, and their demise was antagonized by several caspase inhibitors. These findings suggest that caspases other than caspases 2 and 9 can promote cytochrome c release and initiate Bcl-2-regulated apoptosis.