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Oncogene. 2001 Nov 22;20(53):7779-86.

The protein kinase PKB/Akt regulates cell survival and apoptosis by inhibiting Bax conformational change.

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  • 1Drug Discovery Program, H Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Department of Interdisciplinary Oncology, University of South Florida College of Medicine, 12902 Magnolia Drive, Tampa, FL 33612, USA.


The serine-threonine kinase Akt exerts its anti-apoptotic effects through several downstream targets, including the pro-apoptotic Bc1-2 family member Bad, Forkhead transcription factors, and the cyclic AMP response element-binding protein (CREB). In this report we demonstrate that Akt inhibits a conformational change in the pro-apoptotic Bax protein and its translocation to mitochondria, thus preventing the disruption of the mitochondrial inner membrane potential (DeltaPsi(m)), caspase-3 activation, and apoptosis in pre-B hematopoietic cells FL5.12 following interleukin-3 (IL-3) withdrawal. Inhibition of PI-3 kinase, but not MAPK kinase, promotes this conformational change in Bax. Moreover, overexpression of Akt suppresses the relocalization of GFP-Bax to mitochondria and apoptosis in Hela cells induced by the DNA-damaging agent methyl methanesulphonate. However, Akt does not abolish the ability of a conformationally changed Bax mutant, GFP-Bax (DeltaS184), to translocate to mitochondria and to induce apoptosis. These findings indicate that Akt exerts its anti-apoptotic effects in cells at a premitochondrial stage, at least in part, by inhibiting Bax conformational change and its redistribution to the mitochondrial membranes.

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