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Melody, an ENU mutation in Caspase 3, alters the catalytic cysteine residue and causes sensorineural hearing loss in mice

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      Progeny from the Harwell N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU) recessive mutagenesis screen were assessed for auditory defects. A pedigree was identified with multiple progeny lacking response to a clickbox test. Auditory brainstem response (ABR) analysis showed that homozygous mutant mice were profoundly deaf and the line was named melody. We subsequently mapped this mutation to a 6-Mb region on chromosome 8 and identified a point mutation in melody that results in a C163S substitution in the catalytic site of Caspase 3, a cysteine protease involved in apoptosis. Melody fails to complement a null Caspase-3 mutant. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) has revealed disorganised sensory hair cells and hair cell loss. Histological analysis of melody has shown degeneration of spiral ganglion cells in homozygote mice, with a gradient of severity from apical to basal turns. Melody heterozygotes also show evidence of loss of spiral ganglion neurons, suggesting that the C163S mutation may show dominant negative effects by binding and sequestering proteins at the active site. The melody line provides a new model for studying the role of Caspase 3 in deafness and a number of other pathways and systems.

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      Caspases: the executioners of apoptosis.

      Apoptosis is a major form of cell death, characterized initially by a series of stereotypic morphological changes. In the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the gene ced-3 encodes a protein required for developmental cell death. Since the recognition that CED-3 has sequence identity with the mammalian cysteine protease interleukin-1 beta-converting enzyme (ICE), a family of at least 10 related cysteine proteases has been identified. These proteins are characterized by almost absolute specificity for aspartic acid in the P1 position. All the caspases (ICE-like proteases) contain a conserved QACXG (where X is R, Q or G) pentapeptide active-site motif. Capases are synthesized as inactive proenzymes comprising an N-terminal peptide (prodomain) together with one large and one small subunit. The crystal structures of both caspase-1 and caspase-3 show that the active enzyme is a heterotetramer, containing two small and two large subunits. Activation of caspases during apoptosis results in the cleavage of critical cellular substrates, including poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase and lamins, so precipitating the dramatic morphological changes of apoptosis. Apoptosis induced by CD95 (Fas/APO-1) and tumour necrosis factor activates caspase-8 (MACH/FLICE/Mch5), which contains an N-terminus with FADD (Fas-associating protein with death domain)-like death effector domains, so providing a direct link between cell death receptors and the caspases. The importance of caspase prodomains in the regulation of apoptosis is further highlighted by the recognition of adapter molecules, such as RAIDD [receptor-interacting protein (RIP)-associated ICH-1/CED-3-homologous protein with a death domain]/CRADD (caspase and RIP adapter with death domain), which binds to the prodomain of caspase-2 and recruits it to the signalling complex. Cells undergoing apoptosis following triggering of death receptors execute the death programme by activating a hierarchy of caspases, with caspase-8 and possibly caspase-10 being at or near the apex of this apoptotic cascade.
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        Mammalian caspases: structure, activation, substrates, and functions during apoptosis.

        Apoptosis is a genetically programmed, morphologically distinct form of cell death that can be triggered by a variety of physiological and pathological stimuli. Studies performed over the past 10 years have demonstrated that proteases play critical roles in initiation and execution of this process. The caspases, a family of cysteine-dependent aspartate-directed proteases, are prominent among the death proteases. Caspases are synthesized as relatively inactive zymogens that become activated by scaffold-mediated transactivation or by cleavage via upstream proteases in an intracellular cascade. Regulation of caspase activation and activity occurs at several different levels: (a) Zymogen gene transcription is regulated; (b) antiapoptotic members of the Bcl-2 family and other cellular polypeptides block proximity-induced activation of certain procaspases; and (c) certain cellular inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (cIAPs) can bind to and inhibit active caspases. Once activated, caspases cleave a variety of intracellular polypeptides, including major structural elements of the cytoplasm and nucleus, components of the DNA repair machinery, and a number of protein kinases. Collectively, these scissions disrupt survival pathways and disassemble important architectural components of the cell, contributing to the stereotypic morphological and biochemical changes that characterize apoptotic cell death.
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          Decreased apoptosis in the brain and premature lethality in CPP32-deficient mice.

          Programmed cell death (apoptosis) is a prominent feature of the development of the immune and nervous systems. The identification of the Caenorhabditis elegans cell death gene, ced-3, as a prototype of the interleukin-1beta converting enzyme (ICE) protease family has led to extensive evidence implicating these enzymes in apoptosis. Among the ten or more members of the ICE protease family, CPP32/yama/apopain exhibits the highest similarity to CED-3 in both sequence homology and substrate specificity. To analyse its function in vivo, we generated CPP32-deficient mice by homologous recombination. These mice, born at a frequency lower than expected by mendelian genetics, were smaller than their littermates and died at 1-3 weeks of age. Although their thymocytes retained normal susceptibility to various apoptotic stimuli, brain development in CPP32-deficient mice was profoundly affected, and discernible by embryonic day 12, resulting in a variety of hyperplasias and disorganized cell deployment. These supernumerary cells were postmitotic and terminally differentiated by the postnatal stage. Pyknotic clusters at sites of major morphogenetic change during normal brain development were not observed in the mutant embryos, indicating decreased apoptosis in the absence of CPP32. Thus CPP32 is shown to play a critical role during morphogenetic cell death in the mammalian brain.

            Author and article information

            MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit, MRC Harwell, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Oxfordshire, OX11 0RD UK
            Mamm Genome
            Mammalian Genome
            Springer-Verlag (New York )
            30 November 2010
            30 November 2010
            December 2010
            : 21
            : 11-12
            : 565-576
            © The Author(s) 2010
            Custom metadata
            © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010



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