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BH3 domains other than Bim and Bid can directly activate Bax/Bak.

Du H., Wolf J., Schafer B., Moldoveanu T., Chipuk J.E., Kuwana T.

Bcl-2 family proteins regulate a critical step in apoptosis referred to as mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP). Members of a subgroup of the Bcl-2 family, known as the BH3-only proteins, activate pro-apoptotic effectors (Bax and Bak) to initiate MOMP. They do so by neutralizing pro-survival Bcl-2 proteins and/or directly activating Bax/Bak. Bim and Bid are reported to be direct activators; however, here we show that BH3 peptides other than Bim and Bid exhibited various degrees of direct activation of the effector Bax or Bak, including Bmf and Noxa BH3s. In the absence of potent direct activators, such as Bim and Bid, we unmasked novel direct activator BH3 ligands capable of inducing effector-mediated cytochrome c release and liposome permeabilization, even when both Bcl-xL- and Mcl-1-type anti-apoptotic proteins were inhibited. The ability of these weaker direct activator BH3 peptides to cause MOMP correlated with that of the corresponding full-length proteins to induce apoptosis in the absence of Bim and Bid. We propose that, in certain contexts, direct activation by BH3-only proteins other than Bim and Bid may significantly contribute to MOMP and apoptosis.

J. Biol. Chem. 286:491-501(2011) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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