VDAC1 cysteine residues: Topology and function in channel activity and apoptosis

Lior Aram, Shay Geula, Nir Arbel, Varda Shoshan-Barmatz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The VDAC (voltage-dependent anion channel) is proposed to control metabolic cross-talk between mitochondria and the cytosol, as well as apoptotic cell death. It has been suggested that apoptosis is modulated by the oxidation state of VDAC. Since cysteine residues are the major target for oxidation/reduction, we verified whether one or both VDAC1 cysteine residues are involved in VDAC1-mediated transport or apoptosis activities. To assess the function of VDAC1 cysteine residues in channel activity and to probe cysteine topology with respect to facing the pore or the bilayer, we used thiol-modifying agents, namely membrane-permeable NEM (N-ethylmaleimide), bulky charged 5-FM (fluorescein-5-maleimide) and the cross-linking reagent BMOE [bis(maleimido)ethane]. Bilayer-reconstituted VDAC conductance was decreased by 5-FM, but not by NEM, whereas 5-FM had no effect on NEM-labelled VDAC conductance. BMOE caused the formation of dimeric VDAC1, suggesting that one of the two VDAC1 cysteine residues is exposed and available for cross-linking. The results thus suggest that one of the VDAC1 cysteine residues faces the VDAC pore, whereas the second is oriented towards the lipid bilayer. Mutated rat VDAC1 in which the two cysteine residues, Cys127 and Cys 232, were replaced by alanine residues showed channel activity like native VDAC1 and, when expressed in cells, was localized to mitochondria. Human VDAC1-shRNA (small hairpin RNA)-or -siRNA (small interfering RNA)-treated cells, expressing low levels of endogenous human VDAC1 together with native or cysteine-less rat VDAC1, undergo apoptosis as induced by overexpression of these VDAC1 or upon treatment with reactive oxygen species-producing agents, H 2O2, As2O3 or selenite, suggesting that the two cysteine residues are not required for apoptosis or VDAC1 oligomerization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-454
Number of pages10
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2010


  • Apoptosis
  • Cross-linking
  • Cysteine residue
  • Mitochondrion
  • Thiol-modifying agent
  • Voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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