Vaccinia Virus F1L Interacts with Bak Using Highly Divergent Bcl-2 Homology Domains and Replaces the Function of Mcl-1 Academic Article uri icon


  • The Bcl-2 family regulates induction of apoptosis at the mitochondria. Essential to this regulation are the interactions between Bcl-2 family members, which are mediated by Bcl-2 homology (BH) domains. Vaccinia virus F1L is a unique inhibitor of apoptosis that lacks significant sequence similarity with the Bcl-2 family and does not contain obvious BH domains. Despite this, F1L inhibits cytochrome c release from mitochondria by preventing Bak and Bax activation. Although F1L constitutively interacts with Bak to prevent Bak activation, the precise mechanism of this interaction remains elusive. We have identified highly divergent BH domains in F1L that were verified by the recent crystal structure of F1L (Kvansakul, M., Yang, H., Fairlie, W. D., Czabotar, P. E., Fischer, S. F., Perugini, M. A., Huang, D. C., and Colman, P. M. (2008) Cell Death Differ. 15, 1564-1571). Here we show that F1L required these BH domains to interact with ectopically expressed and endogenous Bak. The interaction between F1L and Bak was conserved across species, and both F1L and the cellular antiapoptotic protein Mcl-1 required the Bak BH3 domain for interaction. Moreover, F1L replaced Mcl-1 during infection, as the Bak x Mcl-1 complex was disrupted during vaccinia virus infection. In contrast to UV irradiation, vaccinia virus infection did not result in rapid degradation of Mcl-1, consistent with our observation that vaccinia virus did not initiate a DNA damage response. Additionally, Mcl-1 expression prevented Bak activation and apoptosis during infection with a proapoptotic vaccinia virus devoid of F1L. Our data suggest that F1L replaces the antiapoptotic activity of Mcl-1 during vaccinia virus infection by interacting with Bak using highly divergent BH domains.


publication date

  • February 12, 2010

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