Apoptosis is an essential cellular process in multiple diseases and a major pathway for neuronal death in neurodegeneration. The detailed signaling events/pathways leading to apoptosis, especially in neurons, require further elucidation. Here we identify a β-amyloid precursor protein (APP)-interacting protein, designated as appoptosin, whose levels are upregulated in brain samples from Alzheimer's disease and infarct patients, and in rodent stroke models, as well as in neurons treated with β-amyloid (Aβ) and glutamate. We further demonstrate that appoptosin induces reactive oxygen species release and intrinsic caspase-dependent apoptosis. The physiological function of appoptosin is to transport/exchange glycine/5-amino-levulinic acid across the mitochondrial membrane for heme synthesis. Downregulation of appoptosin prevents cell death and caspase activation caused by glutamate or Aβ insults. APP modulates appoptosin-mediated apoptosis through interaction with appoptosin. Our study identifies appoptosin as a crucial player in apoptosis and a novel pro-apoptotic protein involved in neuronal cell death, providing a possible new therapeutic target for neurodegenerative disorders.
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