University of Sussex
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Separating the anti-apoptotic and mitotic roles of survivin

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posted on 2023-06-07, 13:32 authored by Rita Colnaghi, Claire Connell, Rachel Mary Alice Barrett, Sally Paula Wheatley
Survivin is a bifunctional protein that acts as a suppressor of apoptosis and has an essential role in mitosis. To date whether these two functions can be divorced has not been addressed. Here we show that the linker region between the BIR (baculovirus inhibitor of apoptosis repeat) domain of survivin and COOH-terminal alpha helix may be the key to separating its roles. When overexpressed survivin is present in interphase cells and shuttles between the cytoplasm and nucleus. Here we identify a rev-like nuclear exportation signal (NES) in the central domain of survivin and demonstrate that point mutations within this region cause accumulation of survivin in the nucleus. Interestingly cells expressing NES mutants exhibit reduced survival after X-irradiation. Moreover, cells expressing survivin(L98A)-green fluorescent protein (GFP) showed increased poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-cleavage and caspase-3 activity after tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) treatment compared with cells expressing full-length survivin-green fluorescent protein. These data suggest a direct link between the interphase localization of survivin and cellular responsiveness to apoptotic stimuli. Using a cell proliferation assay, we also found that ectopic expression of NES mutants can complement for depletion of endogenous survivin, indicating that they can execute the mitotic duties of survivin. Thus we demonstrate for the first time that 1) survivin has a functional NES; 2) nuclear accumulation of overexpressed survivin correlates with increased sensitivity of cells to ionising radiation; and 3) the anti-apoptotic and mitotic roles of survivin can be separated through mutation of its NES. Separating these two functions of survivin could open up new possibilities for therapeutic strategies aimed at eliminating cancer cells yet preserving normal cell viability.


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  • Published


Journal of Biological Chemistry




American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology





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  • Biochemistry Publications

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