MK-STYX, a catalytically inactive phosphatase regulating mitochondrially dependent apoptosis

Mol Cell Biol. 2011 Apr;31(7):1357-68. doi: 10.1128/MCB.00788-10. Epub 2011 Jan 24.


Evasion of apoptosis is a significant problem affecting an array of cancers. In order to identify novel regulators of apoptosis, we performed an RNA interference (RNAi) screen against all kinases and phosphatases in the human genome. We identified MK-STYX (STYXL1), a catalytically inactive phosphatase with homology to the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) phosphatases. Despite this homology, MK-STYX knockdown does not significantly regulate MAPK signaling in response to growth factors or apoptotic stimuli. Rather, RNAi-mediated knockdown of MK-STYX inhibits cells from undergoing apoptosis induced by cellular stressors activating mitochondrion-dependent apoptosis. This MK-STYX phenotype mimics the loss of Bax and Bak, two potent guardians of mitochondrial apoptotic potential. Similar to loss of both Bax and Bak, cells without MK-STYX expression are unable to release cytochrome c. Proapoptotic members of the BCL-2 family (Bax, Bid, and Bim) are unable to trigger cytochrome c release in MK-STYX-depleted cells, placing the apoptotic deficiency at the level of mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP). MK-STYX was found to localize to the mitochondria but is neither released from the mitochondria upon apoptotic stress nor proximal to the machinery currently known to control MOMP, indicating that MK-STYX regulates MOMP using a distinct mechanism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / metabolism*
  • Apoptosis* / drug effects
  • Biocatalysis* / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / pharmacology
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases / metabolism*
  • Stress, Physiological / drug effects


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • STYXL1 protein, human
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases