Neuronal apoptosis inhibitory protein, NAIP, is an inhibitor of procaspase-9.
Ability of the full length NAIP and its BIR3 domain in inhibition of the proteases of the intrinsic apoptosis pathway was investigated. Activity of endogenous executioner caspases was drastically reduced by both recombinant NAIP-BIR3 (NBIR3) and the full length protein. Western blotting experiments showed that the full length NAIP and its BIR3 domain inhibited the cleavage of procaspase-3 by apoptosome activated caspase-9. Moreover, full length NAIP inhibited autocatalytic processing of procaspase-9 in the apoptosome complex indicating that unlike other inhibitor of apoptosis proteins (IAPs) human NAIP is an inhibitor of procaspase-9. Furthermore, inhibition of single-chain caspase-9 (human caspase-9, D315, D330/A point mutations that abrogate the proteolytic processing but not the catalytic activity of caspase-9) by the BIR3 domain indicated that the this domain is the caspase-9 interacting moiety. Consistently, pull-down experiments of single-chain capsase-9 in apoptosome complex by the NBIR3 but not the X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein (XIAP)-BIR3 domain confirmed that the protein can associate with procaspase-9 prior to its autoproteolysis upon apoptosome formation. Interaction studies revealed the association of C338W variant of the NBIR3, but not the wild type protein with both SMAC-peptide and the SMAC protein. These data indicate that mutation of C338 to Trp is sufficient to accommodate the interaction of NAIP-BIR3 with SMAC-peptide and protein. Taken together, these results demonstrate that NAIP is evolved to prevent apoptosis right at the initiation stage of apoptosome formation and this inhibition cannot be antagonized by SMAC-type proteins.