ABSTRACT: Mixed lineage kinases (MLKs) have been implicated in cytokine signaling as well as in cell death pathways. Our studies show that MLK3 is activated in leukocyte-infiltrated islets of non-obese diabetic mice and that MLK3 activation compromises mitochondrial integrity and induces apoptosis of beta cells. Using an ex vivo model of islet-splenocyte co-culture, we show that MLK3 mediates its effects via the pseudokinase TRB3, a mammalian homolog of Drosophila Tribbles. TRB3 expression strongly coincided with conformational change and mitochondrial translocation of BAX. Mechanistically, MLK3 directly interacted with and stabilized TRB3, resulting in inhibition of Akt, a strong suppressor of BAX translocation and mitochondrial membrane permeabilization. Accordingly, attenuation of MLK3 or TRB3 expression each prevented cytokine-induced BAX conformational change and attenuated the progression to apoptosis. We conclude that MLKs compromise mitochondrial integrity and suppress cellular survival mechanisms via TRB3-dependent inhibition of Akt.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 07/2010; 285(29):22426-36. · 4.77 Impact Factor