Activation of a triplet of nuclear proteins (NP42-50) was observed in human Jurkat T cell line following treatment with an antibody to CD95 (Fas/Apo-1), a cell surface molecule involved in apoptotic cell death. The nuclease activity, corresponding to a triplet of proteins observed at approximately 42, 45, and 50 kDa in size, was extractable, heat-stable, and detected by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophorests containing deoxyribonucleic acids (SDS-PAGE-DNA) assay. The NP42-50 activity requires the presence of Mg2+/Ca2+ and is insensitive to inactivation by heating at 80°C for 5 min. Zinc effectively inhibited the enzymatic activity of NP42-50 on SDS-PAGE-DNA and also protected Jurkat cells from the CD95-mediated apoptosis in cell cultures. The nuclease activation, however, was not a unique pathway for the CD95-mediated cell death. The apoptosis induced by arabinofuranosyl cytosine, a chemotherapeutic agent, also activated the NP42-50 nuclease activity in Jurkat cells, suggesting that a similar cascade of subsequent events in apoptosis may occur in most instances although many different signals can initiate apoptotic cell death in various cell types. The nuclease identified by this study appears to be distinguishable from DNase I or DNase II by its molecular characteristics and its enzymatic requirements. The NP42-50, with respect to the nuclease activity closely associated with apoptotic cell death, may serve as a candidate for the endonuclease(s) involved in the cleavage of DNA into fragments during apoptosis.
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