Covalent conjugation of ubiquitin-like ISG15 to apoptosis-inducing factor exacerbates toxic stimuli-induced apoptotic cell death

Seo Jeong Jeon, Kwang Chul Chung

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Apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) is a mitochondrion-localized flavoprotein with NADH oxidase activity. AIF normally acts as an oxidoreductase to catalyze the transfer of electrons between molecules, but it can also kill cells when exposed to certain stimuli. For example, intact AIF is cleaved upon exposure to DNA-damaging agents such as etoposide, and truncated AIF (tAIF) is released from the mitochondria to the cytoplasm and translocated to the nucleus where it induces apoptosis. Although the serial events during tAIF-mediated apoptosis and the transition of AIF function have been widely studied from various perspectives, their underlying regulatory mechanisms and the factors involved are not fully understood. Here, we demonstrated that tAIF is a target of the covalent conjugation of the ubiquitin-like moiety ISG15 (referred to as ISGylation), which is mediated by the ISG15 E3 ligase HERC5. In addition, ISGylation increases the stability of tAIF protein as well as its K6-linked polyubiquitination. Moreover, we found that ISGylation increases the nuclear translocation of tAIF upon cytotoxic etoposide treatment, subsequently causing apoptotic cell death in human lung A549 carcinoma cells. Collectively, these results suggest that HERC5-mediated ISG15 conjugation is a key factor in the positive regulation of tAIF-mediated apoptosis, highlighting a novel role of posttranslational ISG15 modification as a switch that allows cells to live or die under the stress that triggers tAIF release.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102464
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Oct

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT, Korea government (NRF-2021R1A2C1005469 to K. C. C.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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