The role of the Bcl-2 family in the regulation of outer mitochondrial membrane permeability

Cell Death Differ. 2000 Dec;7(12):1182-91. doi: 10.1038/sj.cdd.4400781.


Mitochondria are well known as sites of electron transport and generators of cellular ATP. Mitochondria also appear to be sites of cell survival regulation. In the process of programmed cell death, mediators of apoptosis can be released from mitochondria through disruptions in the outer mitochondrial membrane; these mediators then participate in the activation of caspases and of DNA degradation. Thus the regulation of outer mitochondrial membrane integrity is an important control point for apoptosis. The Bcl-2 family is made up of outer mitochondrial membrane proteins that can regulate cell survival, but the mechanisms by which Bcl-2 family proteins act remain controversial. Most metabolites are permeant to the outer membrane through the voltage dependent anion channel (VDAC), and Bcl-2 family proteins appear to be able to regulate VDAC function. In addition, many Bcl-2 family proteins can form channels in vitro, and some pro-apoptotic members may form multimeric channels large enough to release apoptosis promoting proteins from the intermembrane space. Alternatively, Bcl-2 family proteins have been hypothesized to coordinate the permeability of both the outer and inner mitochondrial membranes through the permeability transition (PT) pore. Increasing evidence suggests that alterations in cellular metabolism can lead to pro-apoptotic changes, including changes in intracellular pH, redox potential and ion transport. By regulating mitochondrial membrane physiology, Bcl-2 proteins also affect mitochondrial energy generation, and thus influence cellular bioenergetics. Cell Death and Differentiation (2000) 7, 1182 - 1191

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Cell Membrane Permeability / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Membranes / metabolism*
  • Intracellular Membranes / ultrastructure
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2