HtrA2 promotes cell death through its serine protease activity and its ability to antagonize inhibitor of apoptosis proteins.
Inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) proteins inhibit caspases, a function counteracted by IAP antagonists, insect Grim, HID, and Reaper and mammalian DIABLO/Smac. We now demonstrate that HtrA2, a mammalian homologue of the Escherichia coli heat shock-inducible protein HtrA, can bind to MIHA/XIAP, MIHB, and baculoviral OpIAP but not survivin. Although produced as a 50-kDa protein, HtrA2 is processed to yield an active serine protease with an N terminus similar to that of Grim, Reaper, HID, and DIABLO/Smac that mediates its interaction with XIAP. HtrA2 is largely membrane-associated in healthy cells, with a significant proportion observed within the mitochondria, but in response to UV irradiation, HtrA2 shifts into the cytosol, where it can interact with IAPs. HtrA2 can, like DIABLO/Smac, prevent XIAP inhibition of active caspase 3 in vitro and is able to counteract XIAP protection of mammalian NT2 cells against UV-induced cell death. The proapoptotic activity of HtrA2 in vivo involves both IAP binding and serine protease activity. Mutations of either the N-terminal alanine of mature HtrA2 essential for IAP interaction or the catalytic serine residue reduces the ability of HtrA2 to promote cell death, whereas a complete loss in proapoptotic activity is observed when both sites are mutated.
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