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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2007 Jun 15;462(2):150-5. Epub 2007 Jan 9.

BH3-only proteins trigger cytochrome c release, but how?

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  • 1Institute for Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Hygiene, Technische Universität München, Munich, Germany.


The mitochondrial apoptosis pathway has been neatly ordered. Mitochondrial apoptosis is governed by Bcl-2 family proteins, and their respective contributions determine the release of cytochrome c. It is clear that, among the Bcl-2 family, BH3-only proteins are the triggers: activation of BH3-only proteins by apoptotic stimuli initiates the process. BH3-only proteins cause cytochrome c release by activating Bax and/or Bak, and the anti-apoptotic group of Bcl-2-like proteins prevents this. However, it is curiously uncertain how BH3-only proteins activate Bax/Bak. Current models suggest that this is either through direct interaction--although this interaction is not detectable experimentally--or by the neutralisation of Bcl-2-like proteins. Here we discuss the context in which these models are placed and attempt to weigh the evidence.

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