Caspases cleave focal adhesion kinase during apoptosis to generate a FRNK-like polypeptide

J Biol Chem. 1998 Jul 3;273(27):17102-8. doi: 10.1074/jbc.273.27.17102.


Focal adhesion kinase (Fak) is a non-receptor protein-tyrosine kinase that stimulates cell spreading and motility by promoting the formation of contact sites between the cell and the extracellular matrix (focal adhesions). It suppresses apoptosis by transducing survival signals that emanate from focal adhesions via the clustering of transmembrane integrins by components of the extracellular matrix. We demonstrate that Fak is cleaved by caspases at two distinct sites during apoptosis. The sites were mapped to DQTD772, which was preferentially cleaved by caspase-3, and VSWD704, which was preferentially cleaved by caspase-6 and cytotoxic T lymphocyte-derived granzyme B. The cleavage of Fak during apoptosis separates the tyrosine kinase domain from the focal adhesion targeting (FAT) domain. The carboxyl-terminal fragments that are generated suppress phosphorylation of endogenous Fak and thus resemble a natural variant of Fak, FRNK, that inhibits Fak activity by preventing the localization of Fak to focal adhesions. The cleavage of Fak by caspases may thus play an important role in the execution of the suicide program by disabling the anti-apoptotic function of Fak. Interestingly, rodent Fak lacks an optimal caspase-3 consensus cleavage site although it is cleaved in murine cells undergoing apoptosis at an upstream site. This appears to be the first example of a caspase substrate where the cleavage sites are not conserved between species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Base Sequence
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / genetics
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism*
  • Chickens
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Focal Adhesion Kinase 1
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Oligopeptides / biosynthesis*
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / biosynthesis*
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Oligopeptides
  • FAK-related nonkinase
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Focal Adhesion Kinase 1
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • PTK2 protein, human
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases