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J Biol Chem. 1998 May 8;273(19):11401-4.

Superoxide in apoptosis. Mitochondrial generation triggered by cytochrome c loss.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.


Activation of apoptosis is associated with generation of reactive oxygen species. The present research shows that superoxide is produced by mitochondria isolated from apoptotic cells due to a switch from the normal 4-electron reduction of O2 to a 1-electron reduction when cytochrome c is released from mitochondria. Bcl-2, a protein that protects against apoptosis and blocks cytochrome c release, prevents superoxide production when it is overexpressed. The switch in electron transfer provides a mechanism for redox signaling that is concomitant with cytochrome c-dependent activation of caspases. The block of cytochrome c release provides a mechanism for the apparent antioxidant function of Bcl-2.

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