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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Caspase-dependent deubiquitination of monoubiquitinated nucleosomal histone H2A induced by diverse apoptogenic stimuli.

Enzymatic deubiquitination of mono-ubiquitinated nucleosomal histone H2A (uH2A) and H2B (uH2B) is closely associated with mitotic chromatin condensation, although the function of this histone modification in cell division remains ambiguous. Here we show that rapid and extensive deubiquitination of nucleosomal uH2A occurs in Jurkat cells undergoing apoptosis initiated by anti-Fas activating antibody, staurosporine, etoposide, doxorubicin and the proteasome inhibitor, N-acetyl-leucyl-leucyl-norlucinal. These diverse apoptosis inducers also promoted the accumulation of slowly migrating, high molecular weight ubiquitinated proteins and depleted the cellular pool of unconjugated ubiquitin. In apoptotic cells, ubiquitin was cleaved from uH2A subsequent to the appearance of plasma membrane blebbing, and deubiquitination of uH2A closely coincided with the onset of nuclear pyknosis and chromatin condensation. Nucleosomal uH2A deubiquitination, poly (ADP-ribose)polymerase (PARP) cleavage and chromatin condensation were prevented in cells challenged with apoptosis inducers by pretreatment with the pan-caspase inhibitor, zVAD-fmk, or by over-expressing anti-apoptotic Bcl-xL protein. These results implicate a connection between caspase cascade activation and nucleosomal uH2A deubiquitination. Transient transfection of 293 cells with the gene encoding Ubp-M, a human deubiquitinating enzyme, promoted uH2A deubiquitination, while an inactive mutated Ubp-M enzyme did not. However, Ubp-M-promoted deubiquitination of uH2A was insufficient to initiate apoptosis in these cells. We conclude that uH2A deubiquitination is a down-stream consequence of procaspase activation and that unscheduled cleavage of ubiquitin from uH2A is a consistent feature of the execution phase of apoptosis rather than a determining or initiating apoptogenic event. Nucleosomal uH2A deubiquitination may function as a cellular sensor of stress in situations like apoptosis through which cells attempt to preserve genomic integrity.[1]


  1. Caspase-dependent deubiquitination of monoubiquitinated nucleosomal histone H2A induced by diverse apoptogenic stimuli. Mimnaugh, E.G., Kayastha, G., McGovern, N.B., Hwang, S.G., Marcu, M.G., Trepel, J., Cai, S.Y., Marchesi, V.T., Neckers, L. Cell Death Differ. (2001) [Pubmed]
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