Lysosomal Membrane Stability and Cathepsins in Cell Death
Abstract: Lysosomes are acidic organelles that are critically involved in a number of physiological processes, including macromolecule degradation, endocytosis, autophagy, exocytosis and cholesterol homeostasis. Several pathological conditions, such as cancer, neurodegenerative disorders and lysosomal storage diseases, involve lysosomal disturbances, indicating the importance of the organelle for correct cellular function. The aim of this thesis was to investigate the role of lysosomes in cell death signaling.Previous studies have shown that permeabilization of the lysosomal membrane and release of hydrolytic enzymes such as cathepsin D to the cytosol occurs during apoptosis. We identified Bid and 14-3-3 proteins as cytosolic targets of cathepsin D in human fibroblasts. Truncated Bid, generated by cathepsin D proteolytic cleavage, stimulates Bax-mediated release of pro-apoptotic factors from the mitochondria, thereby engaging the intrinsic pathway to apoptosis.Since the presence of cathepsins in the cytosol is sufficient to induce apoptosis, the permeability of the lysosomal membrane influences the fate of the cell. In this thesis, we demonstrated that the stability of the lysosomal membrane can be manipulated by altering the lysosomal cholesterol content. Cells with high lysosomal cholesterol content were less prone to undergo apoptosis when challenged with stimuli known to induce lysosome-mediated cell death. In addition, cholesterol accumulation was associated with increased expression of lysosome-associated membrane proteins and storage of other lipids; however, these factors did not contribute to lysosomal stabilization.Lysosomal membrane permeabilization and cathepsins contribute to ultraviolet (UV) irradiation-induced apoptosis. We demonstrate plasma membrane damage induced by UVA irradiation to be rapidly repaired by lysosomal exocytosis in human keratinocytes. Despite efficient plasma membrane resealing, the cells underwent apoptosis, which was dependent on early activation of caspase-8. The activation of caspase-8 was lysosome-dependent and occurred in vesicles positive for lysosomal markers.This thesis demonstrates the importance of lysosomal stability for apoptosis regulation and that this stability can be influenced by drug intervention. Modulation of the lysosomal membrane permeability may have potential for use as a therapeutic strategy in conditions associated with accelerated or repressed apoptosis.
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