The "pro-apoptotic genies" get out of mitochondria: oxidative lipidomics and redox activity of cytochrome c/cardiolipin complexes

Chem Biol Interact. 2006 Oct 27;163(1-2):15-28. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2006.04.019. Epub 2006 May 12.


One of the prominent consequences of the symbiogenic origin of eukaryotic cells is the unique presence of one particular class of phospholipids, cardiolipin (CL), in mitochondria. As the product originated from the evolution of symbiotic bacteria, CL is predominantly confined to the inner mitochondrial membrane in normally functioning cells. Recent findings identified CL and its oxidation products as important participants and signaling molecules in the apoptotic cell death program. Early in apoptosis, massive membrane translocations of CL take place resulting in its appearance in the outer mitochondrial membrane. Consequently, significant amounts of CL become available for the interactions with cyt c, one of the major proteins of the intermembrane space. Binding of CL with cytochrome c (cyt c) yields the cyt c/CL complex that acts as a potent CL-specific peroxidase and generates CL hydroperoxides. In this review, we discuss the catalytic mechanisms of CL oxidation by the peroxidase activity of cyt c as well as the role of oxidized CL (CLox) in the release of pro-apoptotic factors from mitochondria into the cytosol. Potential implications of cyt c/CL peroxidase intracellular complexes in disease conditions (cancer, neurodegeneration) are also considered. The discovery of the new role of cyt c/CL complexes in early mitochondrial apoptosis offers interesting opportunities for new targets in drug discovery programs. Finally, exit of cyt c from damaged and/or dying (apoptotic) cells into extracellular compartments and its accumulation in biofluids is discussed in lieu of the formation of its peroxidase complexes with negatively charged lipids and their significance in the development of systemic oxidative stress in circulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Cardiolipins / metabolism*
  • Cytochromes c / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria, Heart / metabolism
  • Mitochondria, Heart / physiology*
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Cardiolipins
  • Cytochromes c