Apoptosis can be induced through the activation of death receptors including Fas, TNFαR, DR3, DR4, and DR5 by their respective ligands. Death receptor ligands characteristically initiate signaling via receptor oligomerization, which in turn results in the recruitment of specialized adaptor proteins and activation of caspase cascades. Binding of FasL induces Fas trimerization, which recruits initiator caspase-8 via the adaptor protein FADD. Caspase-8 then oligomerizes and is activated via autocatalysis. Activated caspase-8 stimulates apoptosis via two parallel cascades: it can directly cleave and activate caspase-3, or alternatively, it can cleave Bid, a pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family protein. Truncated Bid (tBid) translocates to mitochondria, inducing cytochrome c release, which sequentially activates caspase-9 and -3. TNF-α and DR-3L can deliver pro- or anti-apoptotic signals. TNFαR and DR3 promote apoptosis via the adaptor proteins TRADD/FADD and the activation of caspase-8. Interaction of TNF-α with TNFαR may activate the NF-κB pathway via NIK/IKK. The activation of NF-κB induces the expression of pro-survival genes including Bcl-2 and FLIP, the latter can directly inhibit the activation of caspase-8. FasL and TNF-α may also activate JNK via ASK1/MKK7. Activation of JNK may lead to the inhibition of Bcl-2 by phosphorylation. In the absence of caspase activation, stimulation of death receptors can lead to the activation of an alternative programmed cell death pathway termed necroptosis by forming complex IIb.
We would like to thank Prof. Junying Yuan, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, for reviewing this diagram.
created September 2008
revised September 2016