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Amphipathic Bax core dimer forms part of apoptotic pore wall in the mitochondrial membrane

By Fujiao Lv, Fei Qi, Zhi Zhang, Maorong Wen, Alessandro Piai, Lingyu Du, LiuJuan Zhou, Yaqing Yang, Bin Wu, Zhijun Liu, Juan del Rosario, James J Chou, David W. Andrews, Jialing Lin, Bo OuYang

Posted 20 Dec 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.12.18.423546

Bax proteins form pores in the mitochondrial outer membrane to initiate apoptosis. They may embed in the cytosolic leaflet of the lipid bilayer generating tension to induce a lipid pore with radially arranged lipids forming the wall. Alternatively, they may comprise part of the pore wall. However, there is no unambiguous structural evidence for either hypothesis. Using NMR, we determine a high-resolution structure of the Bax core region that forms a dimer with the nonpolar surface covering the lipid bilayer edge and the polar surface exposed to water. The dimer tilts from the bilayer normal, not only maximizing nonpolar interactions with lipid tails but creating polar interactions between charged residues and lipid heads. Structure-guided mutations demonstrate the importance of both protein-lipid interactions in Bax pore assembly and core dimer configuration. Therefore, the Bax core dimer forms part of the proteolipid pore wall to permeabilize mitochondria.

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