The ability to withstand mitochondrial damage is especially critical for the survival of postmitotic cells, such as neurons. Likewise, cancer cells can also survive mitochondrial stress. We found that cytochrome c (Cyt c), which induces apoptosis upon its release from damaged mitochondria, is targeted for proteasome-mediated degradation in mouse neurons, cardiomyocytes, and myotubes and in human glioma and neuroblastoma cells, but not in proliferating human fibroblasts. In mouse neurons, apoptotic protease-activating factor 1 (Apaf-1) prevented the proteasome-dependent degradation of Cyt c in response to induced mitochondrial stress. An RNA interference screen in U-87 MG glioma cells identified p53-associated Parkin-like cytoplasmic protein (PARC, also known as CUL9) as an E3 ligase that targets Cyt c for degradation. The abundance of PARC positively correlated with differentiation in mouse neurons, and overexpression of PARC reduced the abundance of mitochondrially-released cytosolic Cyt c in various cancer cell lines and in mouse embryonic fibroblasts. Conversely, neurons from Parc-deficient mice had increased sensitivity to mitochondrial damage, and neuroblastoma or glioma cells in which PARC or ubiquitin was knocked down had increased abundance of mitochondrially-released cytosolic Cyt c and decreased viability in response to stress. These findings suggest that PARC-mediated ubiquitination and degradation of Cyt c is a strategy engaged by both neurons and cancer cells to prevent apoptosis during conditions of mitochondrial stress.
Copyright © 2014, American Association for the Advancement of Science.