AlphaA- and alphaB-crystallins are distinct antiapoptotic regulators. Regarding the antiapoptotic mechanisms, we have recently demonstrated that alphaB-crystallin interacts with the procaspase-3 and partially processed procaspase-3 to repress caspase-3 activation. Here, we demonstrate that human alphaA- and alphaB-crystallins prevent staurosporine-induced apoptosis through interactions with members of the Bcl-2 family. Using GST pulldown assays and coimmunoprecipitations, we demonstrated that alpha-crystallins bind to Bax and Bcl-X(S) both in vitro and in vivo. Human alphaA- and alphaB-crystallins display similar affinity to both proapoptotic regulators, and so are true with their antiapoptotic ability tested in human lens epithelial cells, human retina pigment epithelial cells (ARPE-19) and rat embryonic myocardium cells (H9c2) under treatment of staurosporine, etoposide or sorbitol. Two prominent mutants, R116C in alphaA-crystallin and R120G, in alphaB-crystallin display much weaker affinity to Bax and Bcl-X(S). Through the interaction, alpha-crystallins prevent the translocation of Bax and Bcl-X(S) from cytosol into mitochondria during staurosporine-induced apoptosis. As a result, alpha-crystallins preserve the integrity of mitochondria, restrict release of cytochrome c, repress activation of caspase-3 and block degradation of PARP. Thus, our results demonstrate a novel antiapoptotic mechanism for alpha-crystallins.
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