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FEBS J. 2018 Feb;285(3):416-431. doi: 10.1111/febs.14186. Epub 2017 Sep 4.

Bax, Bak and beyond - mitochondrial performance in apoptosis.

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Interfaculty Institute of Biochemistry, Tübingen University, Germany.
Max-Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Stuttgart, Germany.


Bax and Bak are members of the Bcl-2 family and core regulators of the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis. Upon apoptotic stimuli, they are activated and oligomerize at the mitochondrial outer membrane (MOM) to mediate its permeabilization, which is considered a key step in apoptosis. However, the molecular mechanism underlying Bax and Bak function has remained a key question in the field. Here, we review recent structural and biophysical evidence that has changed our understanding of how Bax and Bak promote MOM permeabilization. We also discuss how the spatial regulation of Bcl-2 family preference for binding partners contributes to regulate Bax and Bak activation. Finally, we consider the contribution of mitochondrial composition, dynamics and interaction with other organelles to apoptosis commitment. A new perspective is emerging, in which the control of apoptosis by Bax and Bak goes beyond them and is highly influenced by additional mitochondrial components.


BAK ; BAX ; BCL-2 family; DRP1; apoptosis; mitochondria; mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization

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