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Mol Cell Biol. 1997 May;17(5):2468-74.

Human Bak induces cell death in Schizosaccharomyces pombe with morphological changes similar to those with apoptosis in mammalian cells.

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Imperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratories, London, United Kingdom.


Apoptosis as a form of programmed cell death (PCD) in multicellular organisms is a well-established genetically controlled process that leads to elimination of unnecessary or damaged cells. Recently, PCD has also been described for unicellular organisms as a process for the socially advantageous regulation of cell survival. The human Bcl-2 family member Bak induces apoptosis in mammalian cells which is counteracted by the Bcl-x(L) protein. We show that Bak also kills the unicellular fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe and that this is inhibited by coexpression of human Bcl-x(L). Moreover, the same critical BH3 domain of Bak that is required for induction of apoptosis in mammalian cells is also required for inducing death in yeast. This suggests that Bak kills mammalian and yeast cells by similar mechanisms. The phenotype of the Bak-induced death in yeast involves condensation and fragmentation of the chromatin as well as dissolution of the nuclear envelope, all of which are features of mammalian apoptosis. These data suggest that the evolutionarily conserved metazoan PCD pathway is also present in unicellular yeast.

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