Zermati Y, Mouhamad S, Stergiou L, Besse B, Galluzzi L, Boehrer S, Pauleau AL, Rosselli F, D'Amelio M, Amendola R, Castedo M, Hengartner M, Soria JC, Cecconi F, Kroemer G.
Apaf-1 is an essential factor for cytochrome c-driven caspase activation during mitochondrial apoptosis but has also an apoptosis-unrelated function. Knockdown of Apaf-1 in human cells, knockout of apaf-1 in mice, and loss-of-function mutations in the Caenorhabditis elegans apaf-1 homolog ced-4 reveal the implication of Apaf-1/CED-4 in DNA damage-induced cell-cycle arrest. Apaf-1 loss compromised the DNA damage checkpoints elicited by ionizing irradiation or chemotherapy. Apaf-1 depletion reduced the activation of the checkpoint kinase Chk1 provoked by DNA damage, and knockdown of Chk1 abrogated the Apaf-1-mediated cell-cycle arrest. Nuclear translocation of Apaf-1, induced in vitro by exogenous DNA-damaging agents, correlated in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with the endogenous activation of Chk-1, suggesting that this pathway is clinically relevant. Hence, Apaf-1 exerts two distinct, phylogenetically conserved roles in response to mitochondrial membrane permeabilization and DNA damage. These data point to a role for Apaf-1 as a bona fide tumor suppressor.