Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Apr 28;95(9):4997-5002.

Bax directly induces release of cytochrome c from isolated mitochondria.

Author information

  • 1Program on Apoptosis and Cell Death Research, The Burnham Institute, 10901 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Bax is a pro-apoptotic member of the Bcl-2 protein family that resides in the outer mitochondrial membrane. It is controversial whether Bax promotes cell death directly through its putative function as a channel protein versus indirectly by inhibiting cellular regulators of the cell death proteases (caspases). We show here that addition of submicromolar amounts of recombinant Bax protein to isolated mitochondria can induce cytochrome c (Cyt c) release, whereas a peptide representing the Bax BH3 domain was inactive. When placed into purified cytosol, neither mitochondria nor Bax individually induced proteolytic processing and activation of caspases. In contrast, the combination of Bax and mitochondria triggered release of Cyt c from mitochondria and induced caspase activation in cytosols. Supernatants from Bax-treated mitochondria also induced caspase processing and activation. Recombinant Bcl-XL protein abrogated Bax-induced release of Cyt c from isolated mitochondria and prevented caspase activation. In contrast, the broad-specificity caspase inhibitor benzyloxycarbonyl-valinyl-alaninyl-aspartyl-(0-methyl)- fluoromethylketone (zVAD-fmk) and the caspase-inhibiting protein X-IAP had no effect on Bax-induced release of Cyt c from mitochondria in vitro but prevented the subsequent activation of caspases in cytosolic extracts. Unlike Ca2+, a classical inducer of mitochondrial permeability transition, Bax did not induce swelling of mitochondria in vitro. Because the organellar swelling caused by permeability transition causes outer membrane rupture, the findings, therefore, dissociate these two events, implying that Bax uses an alternative mechanism for triggering release of Cyt c from mitochondria.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk