Crystal structure of the caenorhabditis elegans apoptosome reveals an octameric assembly of CED-4

Shiqian Qi, Yuxuan Pang, Qi Hu, Qun Liu, Hua Li, Yulian Zhou, Tianxi He, Qionglin Liang, Yexing Liu, Xiaoqiu Yuan, Guoan Luo, Huilin Li, Jiawei Wang, Nieng Yan, Yigong Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


The CED-4 homo-oligomer or apoptosome is required for initiation of programmed cell death in Caenorhabditis elegans by facilitating autocatalytic activation of the CED-3 caspase zymogen. How the CED-4 apoptosome assembles and activates CED-3 remains enigmatic. Here we report the crystal structure of the complete CED-4 apoptosome and show that it consists of eight CED-4 molecules, organized as a tetramer of an asymmetric dimer via a previously unreported interface among AAA+ ATPases. These eight CED-4 molecules form a funnel-shaped structure. The mature CED-3 protease is monomeric in solution and forms an active holoenzyme with the CED-4 apoptosome, within which the protease activity of CED-3 is markedly stimulated. Unexpectedly, the octameric CED-4 apoptosome appears to bind only two, not eight, molecules of mature CED-3. The structure of the CED-4 apoptosome reveals shared principles for the NB-ARC family of AAA+ ATPases and suggests a mechanism for the activation of CED-3.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-457
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


  • Cellbio
  • Proteins
  • Signaling


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