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Science 301 (5632): 513-517

Copyright © 2003 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

VDAC2 Inhibits BAK Activation and Mitochondrial Apoptosis

Emily H.-Y. Cheng,1 Tatiana V. Sheiko,2 Jill K. Fisher,1 William J. Craigen,2 Stanley J. Korsmeyer1*

Abstract: The multidomain proapoptotic molecules BAK or BAX are required to initiate the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis. How cells maintain the potentially lethal proapoptotic effector BAK in a monomeric inactive conformation at mitochondria is unknown. In viable cells, we found BAK complexed with mitochondrial outer-membrane protein VDAC2, a VDAC isoform present in low abundance that interacts specifically with the inactive conformer of BAK. Cells deficient in VDAC2, but not cells lacking the more abundant VDAC1, exhibited enhanced BAK oligomerization and were more susceptible to apoptotic death. Conversely, overexpression of VDAC2 selectively prevented BAK activation and inhibited the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway. Death signals activate "BH3-only" molecules such as tBID, BIM, or BAD, which displace VDAC2 from BAK, enabling homo-oligomerization of BAK and apoptosis. Thus, VDAC2, an isoform restricted to mammals, regulates the activity of BAK and provides a connection between mitochondrial physiology and the core apoptotic pathway.

1 Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA. 2 Department of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030–3498, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: stanley_korsmeyer{at}

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Bax Does Not Directly Participate in the Ca2+-induced Permeability Transition of Isolated Mitochondria.
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A Caspase-8-independent Signaling Pathway Activated by Fas Ligation Leads to Exposure of the Bak N Terminus.
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The Pathophysiology of Mitochondrial Cell Death.
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Interleukin-7 Inactivates the Pro-apoptotic Protein Bad Promoting T Cell Survival.
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Functional Characterization of a Second Porin Isoform in Drosophila melanogaster: DMPORIN2 FORMS VOLTAGE-INDEPENDENT CATION-SELECTIVE PORES.
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Voltage-dependent Anion-selective Channels VDAC2 and VDAC3 Are Abundant Proteins in Bovine Outer Dense Fibers, a Cytoskeletal Component of the Sperm Flagellum.
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The Voltage-dependent Anion Channel Is the Target for a New Class of Inhibitors of the Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Pore.
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