Precise control of the level of c-Myc protein is important to normal cellular homeostasis, and this is accomplished in part by degradation through the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. The calpains are a family of calcium-dependent proteases that play important roles in proteolysis of some proteins, and their possible participation in degradation of intracellular c-Myc was therefore investigated. Activation of calpain with the cell-permeable calcium ionophore A23187 in Ratla-myc or ts85 cells in culture induced rapid cleavage of c-Myc. This degradation was both calpain- and calcium-dependent since it was inhibited by preincubation with either the calpain-inhibitory peptide calpeptin or the calcium-chelating agent EGTA. A23187-induced c-Myc cleavage occurred in a time-dependent manner comparable to that of FAK, a known calpain substrate, and while calpeptin was able to significantly protect c-Myc from degradation, inhibitors of the proteasome or caspase proteases could not. Exposure of Rat 1a-myc or ts85 cells in culture to calpeptin, or to the thiol-protease inhibitor E64d, resulted in the accumulation of c-Myc protein without an impact on ubiquitin-protein conjugates. Using an in vitro assay, calpain-mediated degradation occurred rapidly with wild-type c-Myc as the substrate, but was significantly prolonged in some c-Myc mutants with increased transforming activity derived from lymphoma patients. Those mutants with a prolonged half-life in vitro were also more resistant to A23187-induced cleavage in intact cells. These studies support a role for calpain in the control of c-Myc levels in vivo, and suggest that mutations impacting on sensitivity to calpain may contribute to c-Myc-mediated tumorigenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology