The caspase-3-p120-RasGAP module generates a NF-κB repressor in response to cellular stress.
Apoptosis of pancreatic beta cells is implicated in the onset of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Consequently, strategies aimed at increasing the resistance of beta cells toward apoptosis could be beneficial in the treatment of diabetes. RasGAP, a regulator of Ras and Rho GTPases, is an atypical caspase substrate, since it inhibits, rather than favors, apoptosis when it is partially cleaved by caspase-3 at position 455. The antiapoptotic signal generated by the partial processing of RasGAP is mediated by the N-terminal fragment (fragment N) in a Ras-phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase-Akt-dependent, but NF-kappaB-independent, manner. Further cleavage of fragment N at position 157 abrogates its antiapoptotic properties. Here we demonstrate that an uncleavable form of fragment N activates Akt, represses NF-kappaB activity, and protects the conditionally immortalized pancreatic insulinoma betaTC-tet cell line against various insults, including exposure to genotoxins, trophic support withdrawal, and incubation with inflammatory cytokines. Fragment N also induced Akt activity and protection against cytokine-induced apoptosis in primary pancreatic islet cells. Fragment N did not alter insulin cell content and insulin secretion in response to glucose. These data indicate that fragment N protects beta cells without affecting their function. The pathways regulated by fragment N are therefore promising targets for antidiabetogenic therapy.