Caspase-3 deficiency reveals a physiologic role for Smac/DIABLO in regulating programmed cell death

K. K.W. Hui, A. K. Kanungo, A. J. Elia, J. T. Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Inhibitor of apoptosis protein (IAP)-binding proteins such as Grim, Reaper and HID have been shown to exert a critical role in regulating caspase activity in species such as D. Melanogaster. However, a comparable role for the mammalian homologue of second mitochondrial-derived activator of caspase/direct IAP-binding protein with low pI (Smac/DIABLO) has yet to be clearly established in vivo. Despite tremendous interest in recent years in the use of so-called Smac mimetics to enhance chemotherapeutic potency, our understanding of the true physiologic nature of Smac/DIABLO in regulating programmed cell death (PCD) remains elusive. In order to critically evaluate the role of Smac/DIABLO in regulating mammalian PCD, deficiency of caspase-3 was used as a sensitizing mutation in order to reduce aggregate levels of executioner caspase activity. We observe that combinatorial deletion of Diablo and Casp3, but neither alone, results in perinatal lethality in mice. Consistent with this, examination of both intrinsic and extrinsic forms of PCD in lines of murine embryonic fibroblasts demonstrate that loss of Smac/DIABLO alters both caspase-dependent and caspase-independent intrinsic PCD. Comparative small interfering RNA inhibition studies of X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis, cellular inhibitor of apoptosis (cIAP)-1, cIAP-2, caspase-6 and-7 in both wild-type and Casp3/Diablo DKO mouse embryonic fibroblast lineages, supports a model in which Smac/DIABLO acts to enhance the early phase executioner caspase activity through the modulation of inhibitory interactions between specific IAP family members and executioner caspases-3 and-7.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1780-1790
Number of pages11
JournalCell Death and Differentiation
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • IAPs
  • Smac/DIABLO
  • apoptosis
  • caspases
  • knockout

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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