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The execution phase of autophagy associated PCD during insect metamorphosis.

During metamorphosis of Manduca sexta, involution of labial glands follows an autophagic pathway towards programmed cell death (PCD). We looked for evidence of both caspase dependent and independent pathways of PCD by assaying for caspases -1, -2, -3, and -6, proteasomal protease, and cathepsins B & L, using fluorogenic substrates and aldehyde and chloromethylketone inhibitors. The substrates FR-AMC and RR-AMC, preferentially degraded by cathepsins B and L, were the most rapidly degraded, increasing in rate as the gland involuted. Digestion of YVAD-AMC (preferential substrate for caspase-1) and DEVD-AMC (substrate for caspases-3 & -7) was barely detectable, less than 0.02% (on a per-unit-protein basis) of that seen in vertebrate embryos induced to undergo apoptosis. Cleavage of VDVAD-AFC (substrate for caspase -2) and VEID-AFC (substrate for caspase -6) was also assessed, but activity was negligible. Mitochondrial membrane permeabilization (MMP) and cytochrome c release were not detected. Exogenous caspase substrate, polyadenosyl ribose phosphorylase (PARP), is cleaved by labial gland extracts, but only at an acidic pH of 5.5-6.0, and into fragments different from those generated by caspases (confirmed by N-terminal sequencing). The cysteine protease inhibitor leupeptin inhibits PARP cleavage, but the caspase inhibitor DEVD-CHO does not. However, potential caspase-derived fragments of PARP are seen when cytochrome c and dATP are added to cytosolic extracts. Although apoptotic machinery is conserved and functional in this tissue, cell death occurs independently of caspases in metamorphosis. We also postulate that lysosomal proteases play the major proteolytic role similar to the caspase cascade seen in apoptosis.
Caroline O B Facey, Richard A Lockshin

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