Identification of an antiapoptotic protein complex at death receptors

Cell Death Differ. 2008 Dec;15(12):1887-900. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2008.124. Epub 2008 Oct 10.


Stimulation of death receptors activates the extrinsic apoptotic signaling pathway that leads to cell death. Although many steps of this apoptotic signaling cascade are known, few mechanisms that counterbalance the death signal have been described. We identified an antiapoptotic protein complex associated with death receptors that contains glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3), DDX3 and cellular inhibitor of apoptosis protein-1 (cIAP-1). GSK3, DDX3 and cIAP-1 are associated in cells with each other and with death receptors. Blocking the actions of GSK3 or DDX3 potentiated caspase-3 activation induced by stimulation of four different death receptors in several types of cells. GSK3 restrained apoptotic signaling by inhibiting formation of the death-inducing signaling complex and caspase-8 activation. Stimulated death receptors surmount the antiapoptotic complex by causing GSK3 inactivation and cleavage of DDX3 and cIAP-1 to enable progression of the apoptotic signaling cascade, but the antiapoptotic complex remains functional in cancer cells resistant to death receptor stimulation, a resistance that is overcome by GSK3 inhibitors. Thus, an antiapoptotic complex of GSK3, DDX3 and cIAP-1 caps death receptors, providing a checkpoint to counterbalance apoptotic signaling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Caspase 8 / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases / metabolism
  • Death Domain Receptor Signaling Adaptor Proteins / metabolism
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding / drug effects
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Receptors, Death Domain / metabolism*
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / metabolism


  • Death Domain Receptor Signaling Adaptor Proteins
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Receptors, Death Domain
  • Receptors, TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase 8
  • DDX3X protein, human
  • DEAD-box RNA Helicases