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J Cell Biol. 2007 May 21;177(4):625-36.

BimS-induced apoptosis requires mitochondrial localization but not interaction with anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins.

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Institute for Medical Microbiology, Immunology, and Hygiene, Technische Universität München, Munich, Germany.


Release of apoptogenic proteins such as cytochrome c from mitochondria is regulated by pro- and anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins, with pro-apoptotic BH3-only proteins activating Bax and Bak. Current models assume that apoptosis induction occurs via the binding and inactivation of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins by BH3-only proteins or by direct binding to Bax. Here, we analyze apoptosis induction by the BH3-only protein Bim(S). Regulated expression of Bim(S) in epithelial cells was followed by its rapid mitochondrial translocation and mitochondrial membrane insertion in the absence of detectable binding to anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins. This caused mitochondrial recruitment and activation of Bax and apoptosis. Mutational analysis of Bim(S) showed that mitochondrial targeting, but not binding to Bcl-2 or Mcl-1, was required for apoptosis induction. In yeast, Bim(S) enhanced the killing activity of Bax in the absence of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins. Thus, cell death induction by a BH3-only protein can occur through a process that is independent of anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins but requires mitochondrial targeting.

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