The interferon-induced dsRNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR) induces apoptosis of mammalian cells. Apoptosis induction by PKR involves phosphorylation of the translational factor eIF-2alpha and activation of the transcriptional factor NF-kappaB, but caspase pathways activated by PKR are not known. Upregulation of Fas mRNA by PKR has been suggested to play a role in PKR-induced apoptosis. To learn how PKR induces apoptosis, we have analysed the role of molecules in death receptor pathways. We showed the involvement of the FADD-caspase 8 pathway on PKR-induced apoptosis based on four experimental findings: upregulation of caspase 8 activity during PKR-induced apoptosis, blocking of PKR-induced apoptosis by the use of a chemical inhibitor of caspase 8, and inhibition of PKR-induced apoptosis by expression of both a FADD dominant negative or a viral FLIP molecule. Significantly, despite the PKR-mediated upregulation of Fas mRNA expression, the Fas receptor-ligand pathway is not needed for PKR-induced apoptosis. Antibodies that inhibit TNFalpha-TNFR1 or Fas-FasL interactions were not able to block PKR-induced apoptosis. Taken together, our observations establish the involvement of caspase 8 in PKR-induced apoptosis and suggest that death receptors other than Fas or TNFR1 or, alternatively, a novel mechanism involving FADD independently of death receptors, are responsible for PKR-induced apoptosis.
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