The Journal of biological chemistry

Caspases target only two architectural components within the core structure of the nuclear pore complex.

PMID 16286466


Caspases were recently implicated in the functional impairment of the nuclear pore complex during apoptosis, affecting its dual activity as nucleocytoplasmic transport channel and permeability barrier. Concurrently, electron microscopic data indicated that nuclear pore morphology is not overtly altered in apoptotic cells, raising the question of how caspases may deactivate nuclear pore function while leaving its overall structure largely intact. To clarify this issue we have analyzed the fate of all known nuclear pore proteins during apoptotic cell death. Our results show that only two of more than 20 nuclear pore core structure components, namely Nup93 and Nup96, are caspase targets. Both proteins are cleaved near their N terminus, disrupting the domains required for interaction with other nucleoporins actively involved in transport and providing the permeability barrier but dispensable for maintaining the nuclear pore scaffold. Caspase-mediated proteolysis of only few nuclear pore complex components may exemplify a general strategy of apoptotic cells to efficiently disable huge macromolecular machines.