Bax targeting to mitochondria occurs via both tail anchor-dependent and -independent mechanisms

A. J. Valentijn, J. P. Upton, N. Bates, A. P. Gilmore

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Bax is a member of the Bcl-2 family that, together with Bak, is required for permeabilisation of the outer mitochondrial membrane (OMM). Bax differs from Bak in that it is predominantly cytosolic in healthy cells and only associates with the OMM after an apoptotic signal. How Bax is targeted to the OMM is still a matter of debate, with both a C-terminal tail anchor and an N-terminal pre-sequence being implicated. We now show definitively that Bax does not contain an N-terminal import sequence, but does have a C-terminal anchor. The isolated N terminus of Bax cannot target a heterologous protein to the OMM, whereas the C terminus can. Furthermore, if the C terminus is blocked, Bax fails to target to mitochondria upon receipt of an apoptotic stimulus. Zebra fish Bax, which shows a high degree of amino-acid homology with mammalian Bax within the C terminus, but not in the N terminus, can rescue the defective cell-death phenotype of Bax/Bak-deficient cells. Interestingly, we find that Bax mutants, which themselves cannot target mitochondria or induce apoptosis, are recruited to clusters of activated wild-type Bax on the OMM of apoptotic cells. This appears to be an amplification of Bax activation during cell death that is independent of the normal tail anchor-mediated targeting.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1243-1254
    Number of pages11
    JournalCell Death and Differentiation
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2008


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