Integration and Oligomerization of Bax in Lipid Bilayers Characterized by Single Molecule Fluorescence Study [Lipids]

October 6th, 2014 by Luo, L., Yang, J., Liu, D.

Bax is a pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family protein. The activated Bax translocates to mitochondria, where it forms pore and permeabilizes the mitochondrial out membrane. This process requires the BH3-only activator protein (i.e. tBid) and can be inhibited by anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins such as Bcl-xL. Here by using single molecule fluorescence techniques, we studied the integration and oligomerization of Bax in lipid bilayers. Our study revealed that Bax can bind to lipid membrane spontaneously in the absence of tBid. The Bax pore formation undergoes at least two steps: pre-pore formation and membrane insertion. The activated Bax triggered by tBid or BH3 domain peptide integrates on bilayers and tends to form tetramer, which are termed as pre-pore. Subsequent insertion of the pre-pore into membrane is highly dependent on the composition of cardiolipin in lipid bilayers. Bcl-xL can translocate Bax from membrane to solution and inhibit the pore formation. The study of Bax integration and oligomerization at single molecule level provides new evidences which may help elucidate the pore formation of Bax and its regulatory mechanism in apoptosis.