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1.  Liver mitochondrial membrane crosslinking and destruction in a rat model of Wilson disease 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2011;121(4):1508-1518.
Wilson disease (WD) is a rare hereditary condition that is caused by a genetic defect in the copper-transporting ATPase ATP7B that results in hepatic copper accumulation and lethal liver failure. The present study focuses on the structural mitochondrial alterations that precede clinical symptoms in the livers of rats lacking Atp7b, an animal model for WD. Liver mitochondria from these Atp7b–/– rats contained enlarged cristae and widened intermembrane spaces, which coincided with a massive mitochondrial accumulation of copper. These changes, however, preceded detectable deficits in oxidative phosphorylation and biochemical signs of oxidative damage, suggesting that the ultrastructural modifications were not the result of oxidative stress imposed by copper-dependent Fenton chemistry. In a cell-free system containing a reducing dithiol agent, isolated mitochondria exposed to copper underwent modifications that were closely related to those observed in vivo. In this cell-free system, copper induced thiol modifications of three abundant mitochondrial membrane proteins, and this correlated with reversible intramitochondrial membrane crosslinking, which was also observed in liver mitochondria from Atp7b–/– rats. In vivo, copper-chelating agents reversed mitochondrial accumulation of copper, as well as signs of intra-mitochondrial membrane crosslinking, thereby preserving the functional and structural integrity of mitochondria. Together, these findings suggest that the mitochondrion constitutes a pivotal target of copper in WD.
PMCID: PMC3068979  PMID: 21364284
2.  Essential role of p53 phosphorylation by p38 MAPK in apoptosis induction by the HIV-1 envelope 
The proapoptotic activity of the transcription factor p53 critically depends on the phosphorylation of serine 46 (p53S46P). Here, we show that syncytia containing p53S46P could be detected in lymph node biopsies from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 carriers, in the brain of patients with HIV-1–associated dementia and in cocultures of HeLa expressing the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein complex (Env) with HeLa cells expressing CD4. In this latter model, cell death was the result of a sequential process involving cell fusion, nuclear fusion (karyogamy), phosphorylation of serine 15 (p53S15P), later on serine 46 (p53S46P), and transcription of p53 target genes. Cytoplasmic p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) was found to undergo an activating phosphorylation (p38T180/Y182P [p38 with phosphorylated threonine 180 and tyrosine 182]) before karyogamy and to translocate into karyogamic nuclei. p38T180/Y182P colocalized and coimmunoprecipitated with p53S46P. Recombinant p38 phosphorylated recombinant p53 on serine 46 in vitro. Inhibition of p38 MAPK by pharmacological inhibitors, dominant-negative p38, or small interfering RNA, suppressed p53S46P (but not p53S15P), the expression of p53-inducible genes, the conformational activation of proapoptotic Bax and Bak, the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria, and consequent apoptosis. p38T180/Y182P was also detected in HIV-1–induced syncytia, in vivo, in patients' lymph nodes and brains. Dominant-negative MKK3 or MKK6 inhibited syncytial activation of p38, p53S46P, and apoptosis. Altogether, these findings indicate that p38 MAPK-mediated p53 phosphorylation constitutes a critical step of Env-induced apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC2212781  PMID: 15642743
3.  Inhibition of Macroautophagy Triggers Apoptosis† 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(3):1025-1040.
Mammalian cells were observed to die under conditions in which nutrients were depleted and, simultaneously, macroautophagy was inhibited either genetically (by a small interfering RNA targeting Atg5, Atg6/Beclin 1-1, Atg10, or Atg12) or pharmacologically (by 3-methyladenine, hydroxychloroquine, bafilomycin A1, or monensin). Cell death occurred through apoptosis (type 1 cell death), since it was reduced by stabilization of mitochondrial membranes (with Bcl-2 or vMIA, a cytomegalovirus-derived gene) or by caspase inhibition. Under conditions in which the fusion between lysosomes and autophagosomes was inhibited, the formation of autophagic vacuoles was enhanced at a preapoptotic stage, as indicated by accumulation of LC3-II protein, ultrastructural studies, and an increase in the acidic vacuolar compartment. Cells exhibiting a morphology reminiscent of (autophagic) type 2 cell death, however, recovered, and only cells with a disrupted mitochondrial transmembrane potential were beyond the point of no return and inexorably died even under optimal culture conditions. All together, these data indicate that autophagy may be cytoprotective, at least under conditions of nutrient depletion, and point to an important cross talk between type 1 and type 2 cell death pathways.
PMCID: PMC543994  PMID: 15657430
4.  NF-κB and p53 Are the Dominant Apoptosis-inducing Transcription Factors Elicited by the HIV-1 Envelope 
The coculture of cells expressing the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein complex (Env) with cells expressing CD4 results into cell fusion, deregulated mitosis, and subsequent cell death. Here, we show that NF-κB, p53, and AP1 are activated in Env-elicited apoptosis. The nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) super repressor had an antimitotic and antiapoptotic effect and prevented the Env-elicited phosphorylation of p53 on serine 15 and 46, as well as the activation of AP1. Transfection with dominant-negative p53 abolished apoptosis and AP1 activation. Signs of NF-κB and p53 activation were also detected in lymph node biopsies from HIV-1–infected individuals. Microarrays revealed that most (85%) of the transcriptional effects of HIV-1 Env were blocked by the p53 inhibitor pifithrin-α. Macroarrays led to the identification of several Env-elicited, p53-dependent proapoptotic transcripts, in particular Puma, a proapoptotic “BH3-only” protein from the Bcl-2 family known to activate Bax/Bak. Down modulation of Puma by antisense oligonucleotides, as well as RNA interference of Bax and Bak, prevented Env-induced apoptosis. HIV-1–infected primary lymphoblasts up-regulated Puma in vitro. Moreover, circulating CD4+ lymphocytes from untreated, HIV-1–infected donors contained enhanced amounts of Puma protein, and these elevated Puma levels dropped upon antiretroviral therapy. Altogether, these data indicate that NF-κB and p53 cooperate as the dominant proapoptotic transcription factors participating in HIV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC2213296  PMID: 14993250
Bax; mitochondria; NF-κB; Puma; Bak
5.  Human Immunodeficiency Virus 1 Envelope Glycoprotein Complex-Induced Apoptosis Involves Mammalian Target of Rapamycin/Fkbp12-Rapamycin–Associated Protein–Mediated P53 Phosphorylation 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2001;194(8):1097-1110.
Syncytia arising from the fusion of cells expressing a lymphotropic human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1–encoded envelope glycoprotein complex (Env) gene with cells expressing the CD4/CXCR4 complex undergo apoptosis through a mitochondrion-controlled pathway initiated by the upregulation of Bax. In syncytial apoptosis, phosphorylation of p53 on serine 15 (p53S15) precedes Bax upregulation, the apoptosis-linked conformational change of Bax, the insertion of Bax in mitochondrial membranes, subsequent release of cytochrome c, caspase activation, and apoptosis. p53S15 phosphorylation also occurs in vivo, in HIV-1+ donors, where it can be detected in preapoptotic and apoptotic syncytia in lymph nodes, as well as in peripheral blood mononuclear cells, correlating with viral load. Syncytium-induced p53S15 phosphorylation is mediated by the upregulation/activation of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), also called FKBP12-rapamycin-associated protein (FRAP), which coimmunoprecipitates with p53. Inhibition of mTOR/FRAP by rapamycin reduces apoptosis in several paradigms of syncytium-dependent death, including in primary CD4+ lymphoblasts infected by HIV-1. Concomitantly, rapamycin inhibits p53S15 phosphorylation, mitochondrial translocation of Bax, loss of the mitochondrial transmembrane potential, mitochondrial release of cytochrome c, and nuclear chromatin condensation. Transfection with dominant negative p53 has a similar antiapoptotic action as rapamycin, upstream of the Bax upregulation/translocation. In summary, we demonstrate that phosphorylation of p53S15 by mTOR/FRAP plays a critical role in syncytial apoptosis driven by HIV-1 Env.
PMCID: PMC2193513  PMID: 11602639
cell death; envelope glycoprotein complex; human immunodeficiency virus; mitochondria; rapamycin
6.  Mitochondrial Release of Caspase-2 and -9 during the Apoptotic Process  
The barrier function of mitochondrial membranes is perturbed early during the apoptotic process. Here we show that the mitochondria contain a caspase-like enzymatic activity cleaving the caspase substrate Z-VAD.afc, in addition to three biological activities previously suggested to participate in the apoptotic process: (a) cytochrome c; (b) an apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) which causes isolated nuclei to undergo apoptosis in vitro; and (c) a DNAse activity. All of these factors, which are biochemically distinct, are released upon opening of the permeability transition (PT) pore in a coordinate, Bcl-2–inhibitable fashion. Caspase inhibitors fully neutralize the Z-VAD.afc–cleaving activity, have a limited effect on the AIF activity, and have no effect at all on the DNase activities. Purification of proteins reacting with the biotinylated caspase substrate Z-VAD, immunodetection, and immunodepletion experiments reveal the presence of procaspase-2 and -9 in mitochondria. Upon induction of PT pore opening, these procaspases are released from purified mitochondria and become activated. Similarly, upon induction of apoptosis, both procaspases redistribute from the mitochondrion to the cytosol and are processed to generate enzymatically active caspases. This redistribution is inhibited by Bcl-2. Recombinant caspase-2 and -9 suffice to provoke full-blown apoptosis upon microinjection into cells. Altogether, these data suggest that caspase-2 and -9 zymogens are essentially localized in mitochondria and that the disruption of the outer mitochondrial membrane occurring early during apoptosis may be critical for their subcellular redistribution and activation.
PMCID: PMC2192979  PMID: 9892620
Bcl-2; caspase; mitochondria; permeability transition; programmed cell death

Results 1-6 (6)