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The release of mitochondrial-intermembrane-space pro-apoptotic proteins, such as cytochrome c, is a key step in initiating apoptosis. Our study addresses two major questions in apoptosis: how are mitochondrial pro-apoptotic proteins released and how is this process regulated? Accumulating evidence indicates that the voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC) plays a central role in mitochondria-mediated apoptosis. Here, we demonstrate that the N-terminal domain of VDAC1 controls the release of cytochrome c, apoptosis and the regulation of apoptosis by anti-apoptotic proteins such as hexokinase and Bcl2. Cells expressing N-terminal truncated VDAC1 do not release cytochrome c and are resistant to apoptosis, induced by various stimuli. Employing a variety of experimental approaches, we show that hexokinase and Bcl2 confer protection against apoptosis through interaction with the VDAC1 N-terminal region. We also demonstrate that apoptosis induction is associated with VDAC oligomerization. These results show VDAC1 to be a component of the apoptosis machinery and offer new insight into the mechanism of cytochrome c release and how anti-apoptotic proteins regulate apoptosis and promote tumor cell survival.


  • This research was supported, in part, by grants from the Israel Science Foundation, the Israel Cancer Association and by the Johnson and Johnson Corporate Office of Science and Technology. The authors thank Bio-Rad, Israel, for providing their ProteOn instrument and Zafrir Bravman for helping with the SPR experiments and Dorit Ben-Shahar for helping with oxygen consumption experiments.

  • * These authors contributed equally to this work

  • Accepted February 26, 2009.
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