Gasdermin pores permeabilize mitochondria to augment caspase-3 activation during apoptosis and inflammasome activation
Gasdermin E (GSDME/DFNA5) cleavage by caspase-3 liberates the GSDME-N domain, which mediates pyroptosis by forming pores in the plasma membrane. Here we show that GSDME-N also permeabilizes the mitochondrial membrane, releasing cytochrome c and activating the apoptosome. Cytochrome c release and caspase-3 activation in response to intrinsic and extrinsic apoptotic stimuli are significantly reduced in GSDME-deficient cells comparing with wild type cells. GSDME deficiency also accelerates cell growth in culture and in a mouse model of melanoma. Phosphomimetic mutation of the highly conserved phosphorylatable Thr6 residue of GSDME, inhibits its pore-forming activity, thus uncovering a potential mechanism by which GSDME might be regulated. Like GSDME-N, inflammasome-generated gasdermin D-N (GSDMD-N), can also permeabilize the mitochondria linking inflammasome activation to downstream activation of the apoptosome. Collectively, our results point to a role of gasdermin proteins in targeting the mitochondria to promote cytochrome c release to augment the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway.