Caspase activation and apoptosis in response to proteasome inhibitors

Cell Death Differ. 2005 Sep;12(9):1240-54. doi: 10.1038/sj.cdd.4401729.


Several studies have indicated that proteasome inhibitors (PIs) are promising anticancer agents. We have discovered that PIs have the unique ability to activate effector caspases through a mitochondrial Bcl-2 inhibitable but caspase-9 independent pathway. Stabilization of released Smac induced by blockade of the proteasome could explain the apoptosome-independent cell death induced by PIs. In fact, Smac/DIABLO critically supports this PIs-dependent caspase activation. By using a new assay, we confirm that at a single cell level both Smac and PIs can activate caspases in the absence of the apoptosome. Moreover, we have observed two PIs-induced kinetics of caspase activation, with caspase-9 being still required for the rapid caspase activation in response to mitochondrial depolarization, but dispensable for the slow DEVDase activation. In summary, our data indicate that PIs can activate downstream caspases at least in part through Smac/DIABLO stabilization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Apoptosis*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Caspase 9
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Death
  • Cytochromes c / metabolism
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Etoposide / pharmacology
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Kinetics
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Plasmids / metabolism
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism
  • Proteasome Inhibitors*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Retroviridae / genetics
  • Time Factors
  • Transfection


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • DIABLO protein, human
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Proteasome Inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Etoposide
  • Cytochromes c
  • CASP9 protein, human
  • Caspase 9
  • Caspases
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex