Research Article

BAK/BAX macropores facilitate mitochondrial herniation and mtDNA efflux during apoptosis

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Science  23 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6378, eaao6047
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao6047

The great escape

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is a potent damage-associated molecular pattern that, if it reaches the cytoplasm or extracellular milieu, triggers innate immune pathways. mtDNA signaling has been implicated in a wide range of diseases; however, the mechanisms of mtDNA release are unclear, and the process has not been observed in real time thus far. McArthur et al. used live-cell lattice light-sheet microscopy to look at mtDNA release during intrinsic apoptosis. Activation of the pro-death proteins BAK and BAX resulted in the formation of large macro-pores in the mitochondrial outer membrane. These massive holes caused the inner mitochondrial membrane to balloon out into the cytoplasm, resulting in mitochondrial herniation. This process allowed the contents of the mitochondrial matrix, including mtDNA, to escape into the cytoplasm.

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