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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2009 Dec 4;390(1):38-43. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2009.09.054. Epub 2009 Sep 18.

Mitochondrial apoptosis is amplified through gap junctions.

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  • 1Dept Basic Sciences, New York University College of Dentistry, New York, NY 10010, USA.


The death of one cell can precipitate the death of nearby cells in a process referred to as the bystander effect. We investigated whether mitochondrial apoptosis generated a bystander effect and, if so, by which pathway. Microinjection with cytochrome c mimicked function of the mitochondrial apoptosis-induced channel MAC and caused apoptosis of both target and nearby osteoblasts. This effect was suppressed by inhibiting gap junction intercellular communication. A bystander effect was also observed after exogenous expression of tBid, which facilitates MAC formation and cytochrome c release. Interestingly, in connexin-43 deficient osteoblasts, microinjection of cytochrome c induced apoptosis only in the target cell. These findings indicate that a death signal was generated downstream of MAC function and was transmitted through gap junctions to amplify apoptosis in neighboring cells. This concept may have implications in development of new therapeutic approaches.

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