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Exp Physiol. 2003 Jan;88(1):85-90.

Role of mitochondria in apoptosis.

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Department of Molecular Biology, University of Essen, Hufelandstrase 55, 45122 Essen, Germany.


Apoptosis is an evolutionary-conserved physiological mechanism to remove cells from an organism. Cellular apoptosis is mediated via an intracellular signalling programme that involves a variety of signalling molecules and cellular organelles including caspases, sphingomyelinases, Bcl-2-like proteins and proteins to cleave the DNA and mitochondria. Mitochondria contain several pro-apoptotic molecules that activate cytosolic proteins to execute apoptosis, block anti-apoptotic proteins in the cytosol and directly cleave nuclear DNA. Mitochondria trap these pro-apoptotic proteins and physically separate pro-apoptotic proteins from their cytoplasmic targets. Apoptosis is then initiated by the release of mitochondrial pro-apoptotic proteins into the cytosol. This process seems to be regulated by Bcl-2-like proteins and several ion channels, in particular the permeability transition pore (PTP) that is activated by almost all pro-apoptotic stimuli.

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