• Apoptosis;
  • Calpain substrates;
  • CRMPs;
  • Neuron


Increasing evidence shows that calpain-mediated proteolytic processing of a selective number of proteins plays an important role in neuronal apoptosis. Study of calpain-mediated cleavage events and related functions may contribute to a better understanding of neuronal apoptosis and neurodegenerative diseases. We, therefore, investigated the role of calpain substrates in potassium deprivation-induced apoptosis of cerebellar granule neurons (CGNs). Twelve previously known and seven novel candidates of calpain substrates were identified by 2-D DIGE and MALDI-TOF/TOF MS analysis. Further, the identified novel calpain substrates were validated by Western blot analysis. Moreover, we focused on the collapsin response mediator proteins (CRMP-1, -2, -3 and -4 isoforms) and found that CRMPs were proteolytically processed by calpain but not by caspase, both in vivo and in vitro. To clarify the properties of the calpain-mediated proteolysis of CRMPs, we constructed the deletion mutants of CRMPs for additional biochemical studies. In vitro cleavage assays revealed that CRMP-1, -2 and -4 were truncated by calpain at the C-terminus, whereas CRMP-3 was cleaved at the N-terminus. Finally, we assessed the role of CRMPs in the process of potassium deprivation-triggered neuronal apoptosis by overexpressing the truncated CRMPs in CGNs. Our data clearly showed that the truncated CRMP-3 and -4, but not CRMP-1 and -2, significantly induced neuronal apoptosis. These findings demonstrated that calpain-truncated CRMP-3 and -4 act as pro-apoptotic players when CGNs undergo apoptosis.