Regulation of caspase 9 through phosphorylation by protein kinase C zeta in response to hyperosmotic stress

Suzanne C. Brady, Lindsey A. Allan, Paul R. Clarke

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    71 Citations (Scopus)


    Caspase 9 is a critical component of the mitochondrial or intrinsic apoptotic pathway and is activated by Apaf-1 following release of cytochrome c from mitochondria in response to a variety of stimuli. Caspase 9 cleaves and activates effector caspases, mainly caspase 3, leading to the demise of the cell. Survival signaling pathways can impinge on this pathway to restrain apoptosis. Here, we have identified Ser144 of human caspase 9 as an inhibitory site that is phosphorylated in a cell-free system and in cells in response to the protein phosphatase inhibitor okadaic acid. Inhibitor sensitivity and interactions with caspase 9 indicate that the predominant kinase that targets Ser144 is the atypical protein kinase C isoform zeta (PKCζ). Prevention of Ser144 phosphorylation by inhibition of PKCζ or mutation of caspase 9 promotes caspase 3 activation. Phosphorylation of serine 144 in cells is also induced by hyperosmotic stress, which activates PKCζ and regulates its interaction with caspase 9, but not by growth factors, phorbol ester, or other cellular stresses. These results indicate that phosphorylation and inhibition of caspase 9 by PKCζ restrain the intrinsic apoptotic pathway during hyperosmotic stress. This work provides further evidence that caspase 9 acts as a focal point for multiple protein kinase signaling pathways that regulate apoptosis.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)10543-10555
    Number of pages13
    JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
    Issue number23
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2005

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Molecular Biology
    • Cell Biology


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