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J Cell Biol. 1998 Oct 5;143(1):217-24.

Bax-induced cytochrome C release from mitochondria is independent of the permeability transition pore but highly dependent on Mg2+ ions.

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Serono Pharmaceutical Research Institute, 1228 Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva, Switzerland.


Bcl-2 family members either promote or repress programmed cell death. Bax, a death-promoting member, is a pore-forming, mitochondria-associated protein whose mechanism of action is still unknown. During apoptosis, cytochrome C is released from the mitochondria into the cytosol where it binds to APAF-1, a mammalian homologue of Ced-4, and participates in the activation of caspases. The release of cytochrome C has been postulated to be a consequence of the opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (PTP). We now report that Bax is sufficient to trigger the release of cytochrome C from isolated mitochondria. This pathway is distinct from the previously described calcium-inducible, cyclosporin A-sensitive PTP. Rather, the cytochrome C release induced by Bax is facilitated by Mg2+ and cannot be blocked by PTP inhibitors. These results strongly suggest the existence of two distinct mechanisms leading to cytochrome C release: one stimulated by calcium and inhibited by cyclosporin A, the other Bax dependent, Mg2+ sensitive but cyclosporin insensitive.

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