Apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1 (ASK1) is a mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase that can activate the c-Jun N-terminal kinase and the p38 signaling pathways. It plays a critical role in cytokine- and stress-induced apoptosis. To further characterize the mechanism of the regulation of the ASK1 signal, we searched for ASK1-interacting proteins employing the yeast two-hybrid method. The yeast two-hybrid assay indicated that mouse glutathione S-transferase Mu 1-1 (mGSTM1-1), an enzyme involved in the metabolism of drugs and xenobiotics, interacted with ASK1. We subsequently confirmed that mGSTM1-1 physically associated with ASK1 both in vivo and in vitro. The in vitro binding assay indicated that the C-terminal portion of mGSTM1-1 and the N-terminal region of ASK1 were crucial for binding one another. Furthermore, mGSTM1-1 suppressed stress-stimulated ASK1 activity in cultured cells. mG-STM1-1 also blocked ASK1 oligomerization. The ASK1 inhibition by mGSTM1-1 occurred independently of the glutathione-conjugating activity of mGSTM1-1. Moreover, mGSTM1-1 repressed ASK1-dependent apoptotic cell death. Taken together, our findings suggest that mGSTM1-1 functions as an endogenous inhibitor of ASK1. This highlights a novel function for mGSTM1-1 insofar as mGSTM1-1 may modulate stress-mediated signals by repressing ASK1, and this activity occurs independently of its well-known catalytic activity in intracellular glutathione metabolism.
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