We report that Sh3rf2, a homologue of the pro-apoptotic scaffold POSH (Plenty of SH3s), acts as an anti-apoptotic regulator for the c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway. siRNA-mediated knockdown of Sh3rf2 promotes apoptosis of neuronal PC12 cells, cultured cortical neurons, and C6 glioma cells. This death appears to result from activation of JNK signaling. Loss of Sh3rf2 triggers activation of JNK and its target c-Jun. Also, apoptosis promoted by Sh3rf2 knockdown is inhibited by dominant-negative c-Jun as well as by a JNK inhibitor. Investigation of the mechanism by which Sh3rf2 regulates cell survival implicates POSH, a scaffold required for activation of pro-apoptotic JNK/c-Jun signaling. In cells lacking POSH, Sh3rf2 knockdown is unable to activate JNK. We further find that Sh3rf2 binds POSH to reduce its levels by a mechanism that requires the RING domains of both proteins and that appears to involve proteasomal POSH degradation. Conversely, knockdown of Sh3rf2 promotes the stabilization of POSH protein and activation of JNK signaling. Finally, we show that endogenous Sh3rf2 protein rapidly decreases following several different apoptotic stimuli and that knockdown of Sh3rf2 activates the pro-apoptotic JNK pathway in neuronal cells. These findings support a model in which Sh3rf2 promotes proteasomal degradation of pro-apoptotic POSH in healthy cells and in which apoptotic stimuli lead to rapid loss of Sh3rf2 expression, and consequently to stabilization of POSH and JNK activation and cell death. On the basis of these observations, we propose the alternative name POSHER (POSH-eliminating RING protein) for the Sh3rf2 protein.
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