PECAM-1 functions as a specific and potent inhibitor of mitochondrial-dependent apoptosis

Cunji Gao, Weiyong Sun, Melpo Christofidou-Solomidou, Motoshi Sawada, Debra K. Newman, Carmen Bergom, Steven M. Albelda, Shigemi Matsuyama, Peter J. Newman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Programmed cell death, or apoptosis, is a tightly regulated, naturally occurring process by which damaged or unwanted cells are removed. Dysregulated apoptosis has been implicated in a variety of pathophysiological conditions, including degenerative diseases, tissue remodeling, and tumorogenesis. The decision to live or die results from integration of numerous environmental signals transmitted by specific classes of cell surface receptors that bind hormones, growth factors, or components of the extracellular matrix. Here we show that platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1 (PECAM-1), a homophilic-binding member of the immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibitory motif (ITIM) family of inhibitory receptors, functions prominently to inhibit apoptosis in naturally occurring vascular cells subjected to apoptotic stimuli. Murine endothelial cells and human T lymphocytes lacking PECAM-1 were found to be far more sensitive than their PECAM-1-expressing counterparts to multiple death signals that stimulate Bax, a multidomain, proapoptotic member of the Bcl-2 family that plays a central role in mitochondrial dysfunction-dependent apoptosis. In addition, PECAM-1 markedly suppressed Bax overexpression-induced cytochrome c release, caspase activation, and nuclear fragmentation. Amino acid substitutions within PECAM-1's extracellular homophilic binding domain, or within its cytoplasmic ITIM, completely abolished PECAM-1-mediated cytoprotection. Taken together, these data implicate PECAM-1 as a novel and potent suppressor of Bax-mediated apoptosis and suggest that members of the immunoglobulin gene (Ig) superfamily, like cell surface integrins, may also transmit survival signals into blood and vascular cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-179
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2003


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