The tumor necrosis factor (TNF) superfamily member TNF-like weak inducer of apoptosis (TNFSF12, CD255) (TWEAK) can stimulate apoptosis in certain cancer cells. Previous studies suggest that TWEAK activates cell death indirectly, by inducing TNFα-mediated autocrine signals. However, the underlying death-signaling mechanism has not been directly defined. Consistent with earlier work, TWEAK assembled a proximal signaling complex containing its cognate receptor FN14, the adaptor TRAF2, and cellular inhibitor of apoptosis protein 1 (cIAP1). Neither the death domain adaptor Fas-associated death domain nor the apoptosis-initiating protease caspase-8 associated with this primary complex. Rather, TWEAK induced TNFα secretion and TNF receptor 1-dependent assembly of a death-signaling complex containing receptor-interacting protein 1 (RIP1), FADD, and caspase-8. Knockdown of RIP1 by siRNA prevented TWEAK-induced association of FADD with caspase-8 but not formation of the FN14-TRAF2-cIAP1 complex and inhibited apoptosis activation. Depletion of the RIP1 E3 ubiquitin ligase cIAP1 enhanced assembly of the RIP1-FADD-caspase-8 complex and augmented cell death. Conversely, knockdown of the RIP1 deubiquitinase CYLD inhibited these functions. Depletion of FADD, caspase-8, BID, or BAX and BAK but not RIP3 attenuated TWEAK-induced cell death. Pharmacologic inhibition of the NF-κB pathway or siRNA knockdown of RelA attenuated TWEAK induction of TNFα and association of RIP1 with FADD and caspase-8. These results suggest that TWEAK triggers apoptosis by promoting assembly of a RIP1-FADD-caspse-8 complex via autocrine TNFα-TNFR1 signaling. The proapoptotic activity of TWEAK is modulated by cIAP1 and CYLD and engages both the extrinsic and intrinsic signaling pathways.
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