Apoptosis : an international journal on programmed cell death

Herpes simplex virus blocks apoptosis by precluding mitochondrial cytochrome c release independent of caspase activation in infected human epithelial cells.

PMID 17080326


Expression of HSV-1 genes leads to the induction of apoptosis in human epithelial HEp-2 cells but the subsequent synthesis of infected cell protein prevents the process from killing the cells. Thus, viruses unable to produce appropriate prevention factors are apoptotic. We now report that the addition of either a pancaspase inhibitor or caspase-9-specific inhibitor prevented cells infected with an apoptotic HSV-1 virus from undergoing cell death. This result indicated that HSV-1-dependent apoptosis proceeds through the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway. However, the pancaspase inhibitor did not prevent the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria, implying that caspase activation is not required for this induction of cytochrome c release by HSV-1. The release of cytochrome c was first detected at 9 hpi while caspase-9, caspase-3 and PARP processing were detected at 12 hpi. Finally, Bax accumulated at mitochondria during apoptotic, but not wild type HSV-1 infection. Together, these findings indicate that HSV-1 blocks apoptosis by precluding mitochondrial cytochrome c release in a caspase-independent manner and suggest Bax as a target in infected human epithelial cells.

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