Bid chimeras indicate that most BH3-only proteins can directly activate Bak and Bax, and show no preference for Bak versus Bax Academic Article uri icon


  • The mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis is initiated by Bcl-2 homology region 3 (BH3)-only members of the Bcl-2 protein family. On upregulation or activation, certain BH3-only proteins can directly bind and activate Bak and Bax to induce conformation change, oligomerization and pore formation in mitochondria. BH3-only proteins, with the exception of Bid, are intrinsically disordered and therefore, functional studies often utilize peptides based on just their BH3 domains. However, these reagents do not possess the hydrophobic membrane targeting domains found on the native BH3-only molecule. To generate each BH3-only protein as a recombinant protein that could efficiently target mitochondria, we developed recombinant Bid chimeras in which the BH3 domain was replaced with that of other BH3-only proteins (Bim, Puma, Noxa, Bad, Bmf, Bik and Hrk). The chimeras were stable following purification, and each immunoprecipitated with full-length Bcl-xL according to the specificity reported for the related BH3 peptide. When tested for activation of Bak and Bax in mitochondrial permeabilization assays, Bid chimeras were ~1000-fold more effective than the related BH3 peptides. BH3 sequences from Bid and Bim were the strongest activators, followed by Puma, Hrk, Bmf and Bik, while Bad and Noxa were not activators. Notably, chimeras and peptides showed no apparent preference for activating Bak or Bax. In addition, within the BH3 domain, the h0 position recently found to be important for Bax activation, was important also for Bak activation. Together, our data with full-length proteins indicate that most BH3-only proteins can directly activate both Bak and Bax.


  • Hockings, C
  • Anwari, K
  • Ninnis, RL
  • Brouwer, J
  • O'Hely, M
  • Evangelista, M
  • Hinds, MG
  • Czabotar, PE
  • Lee, EF
  • Fairlie, WD
  • Dewson, G
  • Kluck, RM

publication date

  • 2015

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