Caspase-Dependent Apoptosis by 2′,5′-Oligoadenylate Activation of RNase L Is Enhanced by IFN-β

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Journal of Interferon & Cytokine Research


The 2′,5′-oligoadenylate (2-5A) system is an interferon (IFN)-regulated RNA decay pathway that provides innate immunity against viral infections. The biologic action of the 2-5A system is mediated by RNase L, an endoribonuclease that becomes enzymatically active after binding to 2-5A. RNase L is also implicated in mediating apoptosis in response to both viral and nonviral inducers. To study the cellular effects of RNase L activation directly, 2-5A was transfected into the human ovarian cancer cell line, Hey1B. Activation of RNase L by 2-5A resulted in specific 18S rRNA cleavage and induction of apoptosis, as measured by TUNEL and annexin V binding assays. In contrast, the dimeric form of 2-5A, ppA2′p5′A, neither activated RNase L nor caused apoptosis. Treatment with IFN-β prior to 2-5A transfection enhanced cellular RNase L levels (≤ 2.2-fold) and increased the proportion of cells undergoing apoptosis (by ≤40%). However, rRNA cleavages after 2-5A transfections were not enhanced by IFN-β pretreatments, indicating that basal levels of RNase L were sufficient for this activity. Apoptosis in response to RNase L activation was accompanied by cytochrome c release from mitochondria. Induction of apoptosis by either 2-5A alone or by the combination of 2-5A and IFN-β was effectively blocked with either the pancaspase inhibitor, Z-VAD-fmk, or with the caspase 3 inhibitor, DEVD-fmk. Therefore, activation of RNase L by 2-5A leads to cytochrome c release into the cytoplasm and then to caspase activation and apoptosis. These results suggest potential uses for 2-5A in augmenting the anticancer activities of IFN.