The anti-apoptotic protein p35 from baculovirus is thought to prevent the suicidal response of
infected insect cells by inhibiting caspases. Ectopic expression of p35 in a number of transgenic animals or cell lines is also anti-apoptotic, giving rise to the hypothesis that the protein is a general inhibitor of caspases.
Purified recombinant p35 inhibits human caspase-1, -3, -6, -7, -8, and -10 with kass values from 1.2 _ 103 to 7 _ 105 (M-1 s-1), and with upper limits of Ki values from 0.1 to 9 nM. Inhibition of 12 unrelated serine or cysteine proteases was insignificant, implying that p35 is a potent caspase-specific inhibitor, which belongs to MEROPS proteinase inhibitor family I50, clan IQ. The interaction of p35 with caspase-3, as a model of the inhibitory mechanism,revealed classic slow-binding inhibition, with both active-sites of the caspase-3 dimer acting equally and independently. Inhibition resulted from complex formation between the enzyme and inhibitor, which could be visualised under non-denaturing conditions, but was dissociated by SDS to give p35 cleaved at Asp87, the P1 residue of the inhibitor. Complex formation requires the substrate-binding cleft to be unoccupied .
Infecting the insect cell line IPLB-Ld652Y with the baculovirus Autographa californica multinucleocapsid nucleopolyhedrovirus (AcMNPV) results in global translation arrest, which correlates with the presence of the AcMNPV apoptotic suppressor, p35. However, the anti-apoptotic function of p35 in translation arrest is not solely due to caspase inactivation, but its activity enhances signalling to a separate translation arrest pathway, possibly by stimulating the late stages of the baculovirus infection cycle .