Members of the the Bcl-2 and ICE/ced-3 gene families have been implicated as essential components in the control of the cell death pathway. Bcl-2 overexpression can prevent programmed cell death (PCD) in different cell types. ICE/ced-3-like proteases are synthesized as pro-enzymes and are activated by limited proteolysis. When overexpressed in diverse cell types, they trigger PCD. Bcl-2 can inhibit PCD mediated by these proteases, although as yet it is not clear at what specific step in the cell death pathway the protein acts. Here, we demonstrate that CPP32/Yama/Apopain, a member of the ICE/Ced-3 gene family, is processed during staurosporine-induced apoptosis in HeLa cells and that concomitant with CPP32 activation, two other proteins, poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) and the U1-70 K small ribonucleoprotein, also undergo proteolysis. Overexpression of Bcl-2 prevents cleavage of CPP32, PARP and U1-70 K and protects HeLa cells from PCD. These results demonstrate that Bcl-2 controls PCD, by acting upstream of CPP32/Yama/Apopain.
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