Although caspase-2 represents the most conserved caspase across species and was the second caspase identified, its precise function remains enigmatic. In several cell types we show that knockdown of caspase-2 specifically impaired DNA damage-induced p21 expression, whereas overexpression of a caspase-2 mutant increased p21 levels. Caspase-2 did not influence p21 mRNA transcription; moreover, various inhibitors targeting proteasomal or non-proteasomal proteases, including caspases, could not restore p21 protein levels following knockdown of caspase-2. As, however, silencing of caspase-2 impaired exogenous expression of p21 constructs containing 3′-UTR sequences, our results strongly indicate that caspase-2 regulates p21 expression at the translational level. Intriguingly, unlike depletion of caspase-2, which prevented p21 expression and thereby reverted the γ-IR-induced senescent phenotype of wild-type HCT116 colon carcinoma cells into apoptosis, knockdown of none of the caspase-2-interacting components RAIDD, RIP or DNA-PKcs was able to mimic these processes. Together, our data suggest that this novel role of caspase-2 as a translational regulator of p21 expression occurs not only independently of its enzymatic activity but also does not require known caspase-2-activating platforms.
Academic paper: Caspase-2 is required for DNA damage-induced expression of the CDK inhibitor p21WAF1/CIP1. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51034476_Caspase-2_is_required_for_DNA_damage-induced_expression_of_the_CDK_inhibitor_p21WAF1CIP1 [accessed May 2, 2017].
D Sohn, W Budach and R U Jänicke