Assembly of the Bak Apoptotic Pore A CRITICAL ROLE FOR THE BAK PROTEIN ∝6 HELIX IN THE MULTIMERIZATION OF HOMODIMERS DURING APOPTOSIS

Stephen Ma, Colin Hockings, Khatira Anwari, Tobias Kratina, Stephanie Fennell, Michael Lazarou, Michael T. Ryan, Ruth M. Kluck, Grant Dewson

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Abstract

Bak and Bax are the essential effectors of the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis. Following an apoptotic stimulus, both undergo significant changes in conformation that facilitates their self-association to form pores in the mitochondrial outer membrane. However, the molecular structures of Bak and Bax oligomeric pores remain elusive. To characterize how Bak forms pores during apoptosis, we investigated its oligomerization under native conditions using blue native PAGE. We report that, in a healthy cell, inactive Bak is either monomeric or in a large complex involving VDAC2. Following an apoptotic stimulus, activated Bak forms BH3:groove homodimers that represent the basic stable oligomeric unit. These dimers multimerize to higher-order oligomers via a labile interface independent of both the BH3 domain and groove. Linkage of the alpha 6:alpha 6 interface is sufficient to stabilize higher-order Bak oligomers on native PAGE, suggesting an important role in the Bak oligomeric pore. Mutagenesis of the alpha 6 helix disrupted apoptotic function because a chimera of Bak with the alpha 6 derived from Bcl-2 could be activated by truncated Bid (tBid) and could form BH3:groove homodimers but could not form high molecular weight oligomers or mediate cell death. An alpha 6 peptide could block Bak function but did so upstream of dimerization, potentially implicating alpha 6 as a site for activation by BH3-only proteins. Our examination of native Bak oligomers indicates that the Bak apoptotic pore forms by the multimerization of BH3:groove homodimers and reveals that Bak alpha 6 is not only important for Bak oligomerization and function but may also be involved in how Bak is activated by BH3-only proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26027-26038
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Volume288
Issue number36
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes

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