The Journal of cell biology

Bax activation by the BH3-only protein Puma promotes cell dependence on antiapoptotic Bcl-2 family members.

PMID 19380879


It is still unclear whether the BH3-only protein Puma (p53 up-regulated modulator of apoptosis) can prime cells to death and render antiapoptotic BH3-binding Bcl-2 homologues necessary for survival through its ability to directly interact with proapoptotic Bax and activate it. In this study, we provide further evidence, using cell-free assays, that the BH3 domain of Puma binds Bax at an activation site that comprises the first helix of Bax. We also show that, in yeast, Puma interacts with Bax and triggers its killing activity when Bcl-2 homologues are absent but not when Bcl-xL is expressed. Finally, endogenous Puma is involved in the apoptotic response of human colorectal cancer cells to the Bcl-2/Bcl-xL inhibitor ABT-737, even in conditions where the expression of Mcl-1 is down-regulated. Thus, Puma is competent to trigger Bax activity by itself, thereby promoting cellular dependence on prosurvival Bcl-2 family members.