Apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF): a novel caspase-independent death effector released from mitochondria

Biochimie. Feb-Mar 2002;84(2-3):215-22. doi: 10.1016/s0300-9084(02)01374-3.


Apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) is a phylogenetically ancient mitochondrial intermembrane flavoprotein endowed with the unique capacity to induce caspase-independent peripheral chromatin condensation and large-scale DNA fragmentation when added to purified nuclei. In addition to its apoptogenic activity on nuclei, AIF can also participate in the regulation of apoptotic mitochondrial membrane permeabilization and exhibits an NADH oxidase activity. Under normal circumstances, AIF is secluded behind the outer mitochondrial membrane. However, upon apoptosis induction AIF translocates to the cytosol and the nucleus. Injection of anti-AIF antibodies or knockout of the AIF gene have demonstrated that AIF may be required for cell death occurring in response to some stimuli. In particular, inactivation of AIF renders embryonic stem cells resistant to cell death following growth factor withdrawal. Moreover, AIF is essential for programmed cell death during cavitation of embryoid bodies, the very first wave of (caspase-independent) cell death indispensable for mouse morphogenesis. We have recently found that AIF is neutralized by heat-shock protein (HSP) 70, in a reaction that appears to be independent of ATP or the ATP-binding domain (ABD) of HSP70 and thus differs from the previously described Apaf-1/HSP70 interaction (which requires ATP and the HSP70 ABD). Intriguingly, HSP70 lacking ABD (HSP70 Delta ABD) inhibits apoptosis induced by serum withdrawal, staurosporin, and menadione, three models of apoptosis which are also affected by micro-injection of anti-AIF antibody or genetic ablation of AIF. Altogether, these data suggest that AIF plays a role in the regulation of caspase-independent cell death.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Apoptosis Inducing Factor
  • Apoptotic Protease-Activating Factor 1
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Flavoproteins / physiology*
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology*
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Proteins


  • AIFM1 protein, human
  • APAF1 protein, human
  • Apaf1 protein, mouse
  • Apoptosis Inducing Factor
  • Apoptotic Protease-Activating Factor 1
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Flavoproteins
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Caspases