BID, BIM, and PUMA Are Essential for Activation of the BAX- and BAK-Dependent Cell Death Program

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Science  03 Dec 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6009, pp. 1390-1393
DOI: 10.1126/science.1190217

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Deadly Trio

The proteins BAX and BAK act as a key decision point, regulating apoptosis by controlling the permeability of the mitochondrial outer membrane. Evidence has been presented for two mechanisms of activation of BAX and BAK: an indirect mechanism where proapoptotic proteins neutralize the antiapoptotic effects of the protein BCL-2 and its relatives; or direct activation of BAX and BAK by BIM, BID, or PUMA. Analysis of the situation in vivo is complicated by the overlapping function of BIM, BID, and PUMA. Ren et al. (p. 1390; see the Perspective by Martin) thus analyzed triple-knockout mice lacking BIM, BID, and PUMA. Apoptosis during mouse development required a direct effect of one of these proteins to activate BAX or BAK, thereby promoting cell death.


Although the proteins BAX and BAK are required for initiation of apoptosis at the mitochondria, how BAX and BAK are activated remains unsettled. We provide in vivo evidence demonstrating an essential role of the proteins BID, BIM, and PUMA in activating BAX and BAK. Bid, Bim, and Puma triple-knockout mice showed the same developmental defects that are associated with deficiency of Bax and Bak, including persistent interdigital webs and imperforate vaginas. Genetic deletion of Bid, Bim, and Puma prevented the homo-oligomerization of BAX and BAK, and thereby cytochrome c–mediated activation of caspases in response to diverse death signals in neurons and T lymphocytes, despite the presence of other BH3-only molecules. Thus, many forms of apoptosis require direct activation of BAX and BAK at the mitochondria by a member of the BID, BIM, or PUMA family of proteins.

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