Key regions of VDAC1 functioning in apoptosis induction and regulation by hexokinase

Varda Shoshan-Barmatz, Miri Zakar, Keshet Rosenthal, Salah Abu-Hamad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


The voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC), located in the mitochondrial outer membrane, functions as gatekeeper for the entry and exit of mitochondrial metabolites, and thus controls cross-talk between mitochondria and the cytosol. VDAC also serves as a site for the docking of cytosolic proteins, such as hexokinase, and is recognized as a key protein in mitochondria-mediated apoptosis. The role of VDAC in apoptosis has emerged from various studies showing its involvement in cytochrome c release and apoptotic cell death as well as its interaction with proteins regulating apoptosis, including the mitochondria-bound isoforms of hexokinase (HK-I, HK-II). Recently, the functional HK-VDAC association has shifted from being considered in a predominantly metabolic light to the recognition of its major impact on the regulation of apoptotic responsiveness of the cell. Here, we demonstrate that the HK-VDAC1 interaction can be disrupted by mutating VDAC1 and by VDAC1-based peptides, consequently leading to diminished HK anti-apoptotic activity, suggesting that disruption of HK binding to VDAC1 can decrease tumor cell survival. Indeed, understanding structure-function relationships of VDAC is critical for deciphering how this channel can perform such a variety of differing functions, all important for cell life and death. By expressing VDAC1 mutants and VDAC1-based peptides, we have identified VDAC1 amino acid residues and domains important for interaction with HK and protection against apoptosis. These include negatively- and positively-charged residues, some of which are located within β-strands of the protein. The N-terminal region of VDAC1 binds HK-I and prevents HK-mediated protection against apoptosis induced by STS, while expression of a VDAC N-terminal peptide detaches HK-I-GFP from mitochondria. These findings indicate that the interaction of HK with VDAC1 involves charged residues in several β-strands and in the N-terminal domain. Displacing HK, serving as the 'guardian of the mitochondrion', from its binding site on VDAC1 may thus be exploited as an approach to cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-430
Number of pages10
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2009


  • Apoptosis
  • Clotrimazol
  • Hexokinase
  • Mitochondria
  • Peptide
  • VDAC

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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