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Certain inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) family members are sentinel proteins that prevent untimely cell death by inhibiting caspases. Antagonists, including second mitochondria-derived activator of caspases (SMAC), regulate IAPs and drive cell death. Baculoviral IAP repeat-containing protein 6 (BIRC6), a giant IAP with dual E2 and E3 ubiquitin ligase activity, regulates programmed cell death through unknown mechanisms. We show that BIRC6 directly restricts executioner caspase-3 and -7 and ubiquitinates caspase-3, -7, and -9, working exclusively with noncanonical E1, UBA6. Notably, we show that SMAC suppresses both mechanisms. Cryo–electron microscopy structures of BIRC6 alone and in complex with SMAC reveal that BIRC6 is an antiparallel dimer juxtaposing the substrate-binding module against the catalytic domain. Furthermore, we discover that SMAC multisite binding to BIRC6 results in a subnanomolar affinity interaction, enabling SMAC to competitively displace caspases, thus antagonizing BIRC6 anticaspase function.

Original publication




Journal article




American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Publication Date





1112 - 1117