Identification of XAF1-MT2A mutual antagonism as a molecular switch in cell-fate decisions under stressful conditions

Cheol Hee Shina, Min Goo Leea, Jikhyon Hana, Seong In Jeonga, Byung Kyu Ryua, Sung Gil Chia

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23 Citations (Scopus)


XIAP-associated factor 1 (XAF1) is a tumor suppressor that is commonly inactivated in multiple human neoplasms. However, the molecular mechanism underlying its proapoptotic function remains largely undefined. Here, we report that XAF1 induction by heavy metals triggers an apoptotic switch of stress response by destabilizing metallothionein 2A (MT2A). XAF1 directly interacts with MT2A and facilitates its lysosomal degradation, resulting in the elevation of the free intercellular zinc level and subsequent activation of p53 and inactivation of XIAP. Intriguingly, XAF1 is activated as a unique transcription target of metal-regulatory transcription factor-1 (MTF-1) in signaling apoptosis, and its protein is destabilized via the lysosomal pathway by MTF-1-induced MT2A under cytostatic stress conditions, indicating the presence of mutual antagonism between XAF1 and MT2A. The antagonistic interplay between XAF1 and MT2A acts as a key molecular switch in MTF-1-mediated cell-fate decisions and also plays an important role in cell response to various apoptotic and survival factors. Wild-type (WT) XAF1 but not MT2A binding-deficient mutant XAF1 increases the free intracellular zinc level and accelerates WT folding of p53 and degradation of XIAP. Consistently, XAF1 evokes a more drastic apoptotic effect in p53+/+ versus isogenic p53-/-cells. Clinically, expression levels of XAF1 and MT2A are inversely correlated in primary colon tumors and multiple cancer cell lines. XAF1-depleted xenograft tumors display an increased growth rate and a decreased apoptotic response to cytotoxic heavy metals with strong MT2A expression. Collectively, this study uncovers an important role for XAF1-MT2A antagonism as a linchpin to govern cell fate under various stressful conditions including heavy metal exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5683-5688
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 2017 May 30

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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