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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2005 Jul;289(1):H477-87.

Bax translocates from cytosol to mitochondria in cardiac cells during apoptosis: development of a GFP-Bax-stable H9c2 cell line for apoptosis analysis.

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Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Medical Univ. of South Carolina, 173 Ashley Ave., PO Box 250509, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.


The proapoptotic protein Bax plays an important role in cardiomyocytic cell death. Ablation of this protein has been shown to diminish cardiac damage in Bax-knockout mice during ischemia-reperfusion. Presently, studies of Bax-mediated cardiac cell death examined primarily the expression levels of Bax and its prosurvival factor Bcl-2 rather than the localization of this protein, which dictates its function. Using immunofluorescence labeling, we have shown that in neonatal rat cardiomyocytes and in H9c2 cardiomyoblasts, Bax translocates from cytosol to mitochondria upon the induction of apoptosis by hypoxia-reoxygenation-serum withdrawal and by the presence of the free-radical inducer menadione. Also, we found that Bax translocation to mitochondria was associated with the exposure of an NH2-terminal epitope, and that this translocation could be partially blocked by the prosurvival factors Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL. To visualize the translocation of Bax in living cells, we have developed an H9c2 cell line that stably expresses green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagged Bax. This cell line has GFP-Bax localized primarily in the cytosol in the absence of apoptotic inducers. Upon induction of apoptosis by a number of stimuli, including menadione, staurosporine, sodium nitroprusside, and hypoxia-reoxygenation-serum withdrawal, we could observe the translocation of Bax from cytosol to mitochondria. This translocation was not affected by retinoic acid-induced differentiation of H9c2 cells. Additionally, this translocation was associated with loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, release of cytochrome c, and fragmentation of nuclei. Finally, using a tetramethylrhodamine-based dye, we have shown that a rapid screening process based on the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential could be developed to monitor GFP-Bax translocation to mitochondria. Overall, the GFP-Bax-stable H9c2 cell line that we have developed represents a unique tool for examining Bax-mediated apoptosis, and it could be of great importance in screening therapeutic compounds that could block Bax translocation to mitochondria to attenuate apoptosis.

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