Dismantling cell-cell contacts during apoptosis is coupled to a caspase- dependent proteolytic cleavage of β-catenin

Claudio Brancolini, Dean Lazarevic, Joe Rodriguez, Claudio Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cell death by apoptosis is a tightly regulated process that requires coordinated modification in cellular architecture. The caspase protease family has been shown to play a key role in apoptosis. Here we report that specific and ordered changes in the actin cytoskeleton take place during apoptosis. In this context, we have dissected one of the first hallmarks in cell death, represented by the severing of contacts among neighboring cells. More specifically, we provide demonstration for the mechanism that could contribute to the disassembly of cytosketetal organization at cell-cell adhesion. In fact, β-catenin, a known regulator of cell-cell adhesion, is proteolytically processed in different cell types after induction of apoptosis. Caspase-3 (cpp32/apopain/yama) cleaves in vitro translated β- catenin into a form which is similar in size to that observed in cells undergoing apoptosis. β-Catenin cleavage, during apoptosis in vivo and after caspase-3 treatment in vitro, removes the amino- and carboxy-terminal regions of the protein. The resulting β-catenin product is unable to bind α- catenin that is responsible for actin filament binding and organization. This evidence indicates that connection with actin filaments organized at cell- cell contacts could be dismantled during apoptosis. Our observations suggest that caspases orchestrate the specific and sequential changes in the actin cytoskeleton occurring during cell death via cleavage of different regulators of the microfilament system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)759-771
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 3 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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