The reactive oxygen species (ROS)-sensitive apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1 (ASK1) signaling complex is a key regulator of p38 MAPK activity, a major modulator of stress-associated with aging disorders. We recently reported that the ratio of free ASK1 to the complex-bound ASK1 is significantly decreased in Klotho-responsive manner and that Klotho-deficient tissues have elevated levels of free ASK1 which coincides with increased oxidative stress. Here, we tested the hypothesis that: 1) covalent interactions exist among three identified proteins constituting the ASK1 signaling complex; 2) in normal unstressed cells the ASK1, 14-3-3ζ and thioredoxin (Trx) proteins simultaneously engage in a tripartite complex formation; 3) Klotho's stabilizing effect on the complex relied solely on 14-3-3ζ expression and its apparent phosphorylation and dimerization changes. To verify the hypothesis, we performed 14-3-3ζ siRNA knock-down experiments in conjunction with cell-based assays to measure ASK1-client protein interactions in the presence and absence of Klotho, and with or without an oxidant such as rotenone. Our results show that Klotho activity induces posttranslational modifications in the complex targeting 14-3-3ζ monomer/dimer changes to effectively protect against ASK1 oxidation and dissociation. This is the first observation implicating all three proteins constituting the ASK1 signaling complex in close proximity.
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