A chemical inhibitor of Apaf-1 exerts mitochondrioprotective functions and interferes with the intra-S-phase DNA damage checkpoint
Apoptotic Protease-Activating Factor 1
QM31 represents a new class of cytoprotective agents that inhibit the formation of the apoptosome, the caspase activation complex composed by Apaf-1, cytochrome c, dATP and caspase-9. Here, we analyzed the cellular effects of QM31, as compared to the prototypic caspase inhibitor Z-VAD-fmk. QM31 was as efficient as Z-VAD-fmk in suppressing caspase-3 activation, and conferred a similar cytoprotective effect. In contrast to Z-VAD-fmk, QM31 inhibited the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria, an unforeseen property that may contribute to its pronounced cytoprotective activity. Moreover, QM31 suppressed the Apaf-1-dependent intra-S-phase DNA damage checkpoint. These results suggest that QM31 can interfere with the two known functions of Apaf-1, namely apoptosome assembly/activation and intra-S-phase cell cycle arrest. Moreover, QM31 can inhibit mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization, an effect that is independent from its action on Apaf-1.