Conformation of the C-terminal domain of the pro-apoptotic protein Bax and mutants and its interaction with membranes

Biochemistry. 2001 Aug 21;40(33):9983-92. doi: 10.1021/bi010667d.


The C-terminal domain of the pro-apoptotic protein Bax is a hydrophobic stretch which, it has been predicted, anchors this protein to the outer mitochondrial membrane when apoptosis is induced in the cell. A 21mer peptide imitating this domain has been synthesized together with two mutants, one with a S184 substituted by K and the other with the S184 deleted. When their structures were studied by infrared spectroscopy, it was seen that the three peptides formed aggregates both in solution and within lipid membranes, and that the peptide changed its secondary structure as a consequence of these two mutations. It was also observed that the wild-type peptide and the two mutants became membrane-integral molecules and changed their conformation when they were incorporated into model membranes with the same composition as the outer mitochondrial membrane. With the peptides incorporated in the membranes the location of W188 was studied by fluorescence quenching using the water soluble quencher acrylamide and different doxyl-PC located in the membrane, this residue being found at different membrane depths in each of the three peptides. The fact that the three peptides were able to perturb the motion of the fluorescent probe diphenylhexatriene confirmed their insertion in the membrane. However, whereas the wild type and the DeltaS184 mutant peptides were very efficient in releasing encapsulated carboxyfluorescein from liposomes, the mutant S184K was less efficient. Taken together, these results showed that the mutation tested changed the conformation of the C-terminal domain of Bax and the positions that they adopted when inserted in membranes, confirming the importance of S184 determining the conformation of this domain. At the same time, these results confirmed that the C-terminal domain of Bax participates in disrupting the barrier properties of biomembranes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acrylamide / pharmacology
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Diphenylhexatriene / pharmacology
  • Gene Deletion
  • Kinetics
  • Liposomes / chemistry
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2*
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Spectrophotometry
  • Spectrophotometry, Infrared
  • Tryptophan / chemistry
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein


  • Liposomes
  • Peptides
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • Diphenylhexatriene
  • Acrylamide
  • Tryptophan