Calpains mediate epithelial-cell death during mammary gland involution: mitochondria and lysosomal destabilization

Cell Death Differ. 2012 Sep;19(9):1536-48. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2012.46. Epub 2012 May 4.


Our aim was to elucidate the physiological role of calpains (CAPN) in mammary gland involution. Both CAPN-1 and -2 were induced after weaning and its activity increased in isolated mitochondria and lysosomes. CAPN activation within the mitochondria could trigger the release of cytochrome c and other pro-apoptotic factors, whereas in lysosomes it might be essential for tissue remodeling by releasing cathepsins into the cytosol. Immunohistochemical analysis localized CAPNs mainly at the luminal side of alveoli. During weaning, CAPNs translocate to the lysosomes processing membrane proteins. To identify these substrates, lysosomal fractions were treated with recombinant CAPN and cleaved products were identified by 2D-DIGE. The subunit b(2) of the v-type H(+) ATPase is proteolyzed and so is the lysosomal-associated membrane protein 2a (LAMP2a). Both proteins are also cleaved in vivo. Furthermore, LAMP2a cleavage was confirmed in vitro by addition of CAPNs to isolated lysosomes and several CAPN inhibitors prevented it. Finally, in vivo inhibition of CAPN1 in 72-h-weaned mice decreased LAMP2a cleavage. Indeed, calpeptin-treated mice showed a substantial delay in tissue remodeling and involution of the mammary gland. These results suggest that CAPNs are responsible for mitochondrial and lysosomal membrane permeabilization, supporting the idea that lysosomal-mediated cell death is a new hallmark of mammary gland involution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calpain / metabolism*
  • Cathepsins / metabolism
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / enzymology*
  • Female
  • Lysosomal-Associated Membrane Protein 2 / metabolism
  • Lysosomes / enzymology*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / cytology
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / enzymology*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proteolysis


  • Lysosomal-Associated Membrane Protein 2
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Cathepsins
  • Calpain
  • Capn1 protein, mouse
  • Capn2 protein, mouse