Research ArticleImmunology

The VDAC2-BAK Rheostat Controls Thymocyte Survival

Science Signaling  25 Aug 2009:
Vol. 2, Issue 85, pp. ra48
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2000274

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Abstract

The proapoptotic proteins BAX and BAK constitute the mitochondrial apoptotic gateway that executes cellular demise after integrating death signals. The lethal BAK is kept in check by voltage-dependent anion channel 2 (VDAC2), a mammalian-restricted VDAC isoform. Here, we provide evidence showing a critical role for the VADC2-BAK complex in determining thymocyte survival in vivo. Genetic depletion of Vdac2 in the thymus resulted in excessive cell death and hypersensitivity to diverse death stimuli including engagement of the T cell receptor. These phenotypes were completely rescued by the concurrent deletion of Bak but not that of Bax. Thus, the VDAC2-BAK axis provides a mechanism that governs the homeostasis of thymocytes. Our study reveals a sophisticated built-in rheostat that likely fine-tunes immune competence to balance autoimmunity and immunodeficiency.

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