Apoptotic caspase activation mechanisms are well defined, yet inactivation modes remain unclear. The death receptors (DRs), DR4, DR5, and Fas, transduce cell-extrinsic apoptotic signals by recruiting caspase-8 into a death-inducing signaling complex (DISC). At the DISC, Cullin3-dependent polyubiquitination on the small catalytic subunit of caspase-8 augments stimulation. Here we report that tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor 2 (TRAF2) interacts with caspase-8 at the DISC, downstream of Cullin3. TRAF2 directly mediates RING-dependent, K48-linked polyubiquitination on the large catalytic domain of caspase-8. This modification destines activated caspase-8 molecules to rapid proteasomal degradation upon autoprocessing and cytoplasmic translocation. TRAF2 depletion lowers the signal threshold for DR-mediated apoptosis, altering cell life versus death decisions in vitro and in vivo. Thus, TRAF2 sets a critical barrier for cell-extrinsic apoptosis commitment by tagging activated caspase-8 with a K48-ubiquitin shutoff timer. These results may have important implications for caspase regulation mechanisms.
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