Caenorhabditis elegans caspase homolog CSP-2 inhibits CED-3 autoactivation and apoptosis in germ cells

X. Geng, Q. H. Zhou, E. Kage-Nakadai, Y. Shi, N. Yan, S. Mitani, D. Xue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations


In Caenorhabditis elegans, apoptosis in germ cells is mediated by the same core apoptotic machinery that controls apoptosis in somatic cells. These include the CED-3 caspase, the CED-3 activator CED-4, and the cell death inhibitor CED-9. However, germline apoptosis also differs from somatic apoptosis in its regulation. We found that CSP-3, a caspase homolog that blocks CED-3 autoactivation and apoptosis in somatic cells, does not affect apoptosis in germ cells. Interestingly, the second C. elegans caspase homolog, CSP-2, shares sequence similarity to both catalytic subunits of the CED-3 caspase, and surprisingly, contains a stretch of sequence that is almost identical to that of CSP-3. Unlike CSP-3 that acts specifically in somatic cells, loss of CSP-2 causes increased apoptosis only in germ cells, suggesting that CSP-2 is a germ cell-specific apoptosis inhibitor. Moreover, like CSP-3, CSP-2 associates with the CED-3 zymogen and inhibits its autoactivation, but does not inhibit CED-4-induced CED-3 activation or the activity of the activated CED-3 protease. Thus, two different C. elegans caspase homologs use the same mechanism to prevent caspase autoactivation and apoptosis in different tissues, suggesting that this could be a generally applicable strategy for regulating caspase activation and apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1385-1394
Number of pages10
JournalCell Death and Differentiation
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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