Identification of the Primary Caspase 3 Cleavage Site in alpha II-Spectrin during Apoptosis

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Alpha II-spectrin is one of the major proteins responsible for maintaining the cytoskeletal integrity of the cell. The caspase 3-mediated cleavage of alpha II-spectrin during apoptotic cell death may play an important role in altering membrane stability and the formation of apoptotic bodies. In this study, we identified the primary caspase 3 cleavage site in alpha II-spectrin. We found that the transcriptional inhibitor, actinomycin D, induced caspase 3 activation and that caspase 3 activation is coincident with the cleavage of alpha II-spectrin protein at a primary cleavage site. Deletion analysis and site directed mutagenesis identified the primary cleavage site in alpha II spectrin at amino acid 1185 (DETD). The primary caspase 3 cleavage site in alpha II spectrin is conserved in immature and mature B cells. Our results indicate that alpha II-spectrin is initially cleaved at a caspase 3 consensus site and this primary event likely alters the structural conformation of the protein exposing subsequent cleavage sites and altering cytoskeletal integrity. Identification of the primary cleavage site for caspase 3 may help to elucidate the role of alpha II-spectrin in membrane stability and apoptosis as well as provide new insights into alpha II-spectrin autoantibody formation associated with the autoimmune disease, Sjögren's syndrome.

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