The N-terminal conformation of Bax regulates cell commitment to apoptosis

J. P. Upton, A. J. Valentijn, L. Zhang, A. P. Gilmore

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The Bcl-2 protein Bax normally resides in the cytosol, but during apoptosis it translocates to mitochondria where it is responsible for releasing apoptogenic factors. Using anoikis as a model, we have shown that Bax translocation does not commit cells to apoptosis, and they can be rescued by reattachment to extracellular matrix within a specific time. Bax undergoes an N-terminal conformational change during apoptosis that has been suggested to regulate conversion from its benign, cytosolic form to the active, membrane bound pore. We now show that the Bax N-terminus regulates commitment and mitochondrial permeabilisation, but not the translocation to mitochondria. We identify Proline 13 within the N-terminus of Bax as critical for this regulation. The subcellular distribution of Proline 13 mutant Bax was identical to wild-type Bax in both healthy and apoptotic cells. However, Proline 13 mutant Bax induced rapid progression to commitment, mitochondrial permeabilisation and death. Our data identify changes in Bax controlling commitment to apoptosis that are mechanistically distinct from those controlling its subcellular localisation. Together, they indicate that multiple regulatory steps are required to activate the proapoptotic function of Bax.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)932-942
    Number of pages10
    JournalCell Death and Differentiation
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - May 2007


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