Viral protein R (Vpr), an apoptogenic accessory protein encoded by HIV-1, induces mitochondrial membrane permeabilization (MMP) via a specific interaction with the permeability transition pore complex, which comprises the voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC) in the outer membrane (OM) and the adenine nucleotide translocator (ANT) in the inner membrane. Here, we demonstrate that a synthetic Vpr-derived peptide (Vpr52-96) specifically binds to the intermembrane face of the ANT with an affinity in the nanomolar range. Taking advantage of this specific interaction, we determined the role of ANT in the control of MMP. In planar lipid bilayers, Vpr52-96 and purified ANT cooperatively form large conductance channels. This cooperative channel formation relies on a direct protein-protein interaction since it is abolished by the addition of a peptide corresponding to the Vpr binding site of ANT. When added to isolated mitochondria, Vpr52-96 uncouples the respiratory chain and induces a rapid inner MMP to protons and NADH. This inner MMP precedes outer MMP to cytochrome c. Vpr52-96-induced matrix swelling and inner MMP both are prevented by preincubation of purified mitochondria with recombinant Bcl-2 protein. In contrast to König's polyanion (PA10), a specific inhibitor of the VDAC, Bcl-2 fails to prevent Vpr52-96 from crossing the mitochondrial OM. Rather, Bcl-2 reduces the ANT-Vpr interaction, as determined by affinity purification and plasmon resonance studies. Concomitantly, Bcl-2 suppresses channel formation by the ANT-Vpr complex in synthetic membranes. In conclusion, both Vpr and Bcl-2 modulate MMP through a direct interaction with ANT.