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Cell Cycle. 2007 Oct 15;6(20):2434-9. Epub 2007 Jul 23.

Mitochondrial protein import: a matter of death?

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Institute for Medical Microbiology, Technische Universität München, Munich, Germany.


Mitochondria play a central role not only in energy generation but also for apoptosis. A key step in mitochondrial apoptosis is the release of mitochondrial proteins, most importantly cytochrome c. This release is orchestrated by the pro- and anti-apoptotic members of the Bcl-2 protein family. The functions of these Bcl-2 family members are clear in terms of order and of principle: the pro-apoptotic BH3-only protein group contains the triggers, which cause the activation of the effectors Bax and Bak, while the anti-apoptotic Bcl-2-like proteins prevent this activation. However, the molecular details are still insufficiently clear and the proposed models have certain gaps and are partly contradictory. We have recently presented evidence that targeting to mitochondria of at least one BH3-only protein is essential for its pro-apoptotic functions. Here we discuss how this mechanism might fit into and expand existing models and speculate about the potential implications of this finding.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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