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J Biol Chem. 2010 Sep 10;285(37):28749-63. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.148361. Epub 2010 Jun 28.

Bcl-2 and Bax interact via the BH1-3 groove-BH3 motif interface and a novel interface involving the BH4 motif.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73126, USA.


The interaction of Bcl-2 family proteins at the mitochondrial outer membrane controls membrane permeability and thereby the apoptotic program. The anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2 binds to the pro-apoptotic protein Bax to prevent Bax homo-oligomerization required for membrane permeabilization. Here, we used site-specific photocross-linking to map the surfaces of Bax and Bcl-2 that interact in the hetero-complex formed in a Triton X-100 micelle as a membrane surrogate. Heterodimer-specific photoadducts were detected from multiple sites in Bax and Bcl-2. Many of the interaction sites are located in the Bcl-2 homology 3 (BH3) region of Bax and the BH1-3 groove of Bcl-2 that likely form the BH3-BH1-3 groove interface. However, other interaction sites form a second interface that includes helix 6 of Bax and the BH4 region of Bcl-2. Loss-of-function mutations in the BH3 region of Bax and the BH1 region of Bcl-2 disrupted the BH3-BH1-3 interface, as expected. Surprisingly the second interface was also disrupted by these mutations. Similarly, a loss-of-function mutation in the BH4 region of Bcl-2 that forms part of the second interface also disrupted both interfaces. As expected, both kinds of mutation abolished Bcl-2-mediated inhibition of Bax oligomerization in detergent micelles. Therefore, Bcl-2 binds Bax through two interdependent interfaces to inhibit the pro-apoptotic oligomerization of Bax.

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