Mitochondria--the suicide organelles

Bioessays. 2001 Feb;23(2):111-5. doi: 10.1002/1521-1878(200102)23:2<111::AID-BIES1016>3.0.CO;2-Y.


One of the near-to-invariant hallmarks of early apoptosis (programmed cell death) is mitochondrial membrane permeabilization (MMP). It appears that mitochondria fulfill a dual role during the apoptotic process. On the one hand, they integrate multiple different pro-apoptotic signal transducing cascades into a common pathway initiated by MMP. On the other hand, they coordinate the catabolic reactions accompanying late apoptosis by releasing soluble proteins that are normally sequestered within the intermembrane space. In a recent study, Li et al. described a nuclear transcription factor (Nur77/TR1/NGFI-B) that can translocate to mitochondrial membranes to induce MMP. Moreover, two groups identified a novel intermembrane protein (Smac/DIABLO) that specifically neutralizes the inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) proteins, thereby facilitating the activation of caspases, a class of proteases activated during apoptosis. These findings refine our knowledge how MMP connects to the cellular suicide machinery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Organelles