Depletion of histone N-terminal-acetyltransferase Naa40 induces p53-independent apoptosis in colorectal cancer cells via the mitochondrial pathway
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Protein N-terminal acetylation is an abundant post-translational modification in eukaryotes implicated in various fundamental cellular and biochemical processes. This modification is catalysed by evolutionarily conserved N-terminal acetyltransferases (NATs) whose deregulation has been linked to cancer development and thus, are emerging as useful diagnostic and therapeutic targets. Naa40 is a highly selective NAT that acetylates the amino-termini of histones H4 and H2A and acts as a sensor of cell growth in yeast. In the present study, we examine the role of Naa40 in cancer cell survival. We demonstrate that depletion of Naa40 in HCT116 and HT-29 colorectal cancer cells decreases cell survival by enhancing apoptosis, whereas Naa40 reduction in non-cancerous mouse embryonic fibroblasts has no effect on cell viability. Specifically, Naa40 knockdown in colon cancer cells activates the mitochondrial caspase-9-mediated apoptotic cascade. Consistent with this, we show that caspase-9 activation is required for the induced apoptosis because treatment of cells with an irreversible caspase-9 inhibitor impedes apoptosis when Naa40 is depleted. Furthermore, the effect of Naa40-depletion on cell-death is mediated through a p53-independent mechanism since p53-null HCT116 cells still undergo apoptosis upon reduction of the acetyltransferase. Altogether, these findings reveal an anti-apoptotic role for Naa40 and exhibit its potential as a therapeutic target in colorectal cancers. © The Author(s) 2015.
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