To investigate early signaling events responsible for regulation of programmed cell death or apoptosis, we studied campothecin (a topoisomerase I inhibitor)-mediated apoptosis in the human promyelocytic leukemia cell line HL60. We demonstrate a tight correlation between protection of HL60 cells from apoptosis-associated internucleosomal DNA fragmentation by specific protease inhibitors or protein phosphatase inhibitors, with early tyrosine phosphorylation of a single protein substrate with a molecular weight of approximately 42,000. Exposure to protease inhibitors that did not protect HL60 cells from DNA fragmentation did not result in phosphorylation of this substrate. Likewise, a protein tyrosine kinase inhibitor that did not interfere with specific phosphorylation did not prevent DNA fragmentation. Taken together, these results suggest that phosphorylation of a Mr 42,000 substrate constitutes an important signaling event that may participate in regulation of the apoptotic response.

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This work was supported by a University of Wisconsin Medical School Research Committee Grant 161-9851 (to N. L. L.) and by USPHS Grant HL 43506 and a Veterans Administration merit review grant (to B. S. S.).

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