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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the authors' final version prior to publication in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Volume 112, Issue 41, October 2015, Pages E5590-E5599.

The published version is available at DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1510574112. Copyright © National Academy of Sciences


Voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC) proteins are major components of the outer mitochondrial membrane. VDAC has three isoforms with >70% sequence similarity and redundant roles in metabolite and ion transport. However, only Vdac2(-/-) (V2(-/-)) mice are embryonic lethal, indicating a unique and fundamental function of VDAC2 (V2). Recently, a specific V2 requirement was demonstrated for mitochondrial Bak import and truncated Bid (tBid)-induced apoptosis. To determine the relevant domain(s) of V2 involved, VDAC1 (V1) and V2 chimeric constructs were created and used to rescue V2(-/-) fibroblasts. Surprisingly, the commonly cited V2-specific N-terminal extension and cysteines were found to be dispensable for Bak import and high tBid sensitivity. In gain-of-function studies, V2 (123-179) was the minimal sequence sufficient to render V1 competent to support Bak insertion. Furthermore, in loss-of-function experiments, T168 and D170 were identified as critical residues. These motifs are conserved in zebrafish V2 (zfV2) that also rescued V2-deficient fibroblasts. Because high-resolution structures of zfV2 and mammalian V1 have become available, we could superimpose these structures and recognized that the critical V2-specific residues help to create a distinctive open "pocket" on the cytoplasmic surface that could facilitate Bak recruitment.

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