DDX3 regulates DNA damage-induced apoptosis and p53 stabilization

Mianen Sun, Tong Zhou, Eric Jonasch, Richard S. Jope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The DEAD box protein family member DDX3 was previously identified as an inhibitor of death receptor-mediated extrinsic apoptotic signaling. However, there had been no studies of the role of DDX3 in regulating the other major type of apoptosis, intrinsic apoptotic signaling, which was examined here. Intrinsic apoptosis was induced in MCF-7 cells by treatment with staurosporine, a general kinase inhibitor, thapsigargin, which induces endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, and camptothecin, which causes DNA damage. Each of these treatments caused time-dependent activation of caspase-7, the predominant executioner caspase in these cells. Depletion of DDX3 using shRNA did not alter apoptotic responses to staurosporine or thapsigargin. However, caspase-7 activation induced by camptothecin was regulated by DDX3 in a manner dependent on the functional status of p53. Depletion of DDX3 abrogated camptothecin-induced caspase-7 activation in MCF-7 cells expressing functional wild-type p53, but oppositely potentiated camptothecin-mediated caspase activation in cells expressing mutant or non-functional p53, which was accompanied by increased activation of the extrinsic apoptotic signaling initiator caspase-8. In MCF-7 cells, depletion of DDX3 reduced by more than 50% camptothecin-induced p53 accumulation, and this effect was blocked by inhibition of the proteasome with MG132, indicating that DDX3 regulates p53 not at expression level but rather its stabilization after DNA damage. Co-immunoprecipitation experiments demonstrated that DDX3 associates with p53, and overexpression of DDX3 was sufficient to double the accumulation of p53 in the nucleus after DNA damage. Thus, DDX3 associates with p53, increases p53 accumulation, and positively regulates camptothecin-induced apoptotic signaling in cells expressing functional wild-type p53, whereas in cells expressing mutant or non-functional p53 DDX3 inhibits activation of the extrinsic apoptotic pathway to reduce caspase activation. These results demonstrate that DDX3 not only regulates extrinsic apoptotic signaling, as previously reported, but also selectively regulates intrinsic apoptotic signaling following DNA damage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1489-1497
Number of pages9
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Cell Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Apoptosis
  • Camptothecin
  • DDX3
  • DNA damage
  • P53

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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