Functional interplay between caspase cleavage and phosphorylation sculpts the apoptotic proteome

Cell. 2012 Jul 20;150(2):426-40. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.05.040.


Caspase proteases are principal mediators of apoptosis, where they cleave hundreds of proteins. Phosphorylation also plays an important role in apoptosis, although the extent to which proteolytic and phosphorylation pathways crosstalk during programmed cell death remains poorly understood. Using a quantitative proteomic platform that integrates phosphorylation sites into the topographical maps of proteins, we identify a cohort of over 500 apoptosis-specific phosphorylation events and show that they are enriched on cleaved proteins and clustered around sites of caspase proteolysis. We find that caspase cleavage can expose new sites for phosphorylation, and, conversely, that phosphorylation at the +3 position of cleavage sites can directly promote substrate proteolysis by caspase-8. This study provides a global portrait of the apoptotic phosphoproteome, revealing heretofore unrecognized forms of functional crosstalk between phosphorylation and caspase proteolytic pathways that lead to enhanced rates of protein cleavage and the unveiling of new sites for phosphorylation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis*
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proteolysis
  • Proteome / analysis*
  • Proteome / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Proteome
  • Caspases