The role of lipids in VDAC oligomerization

Biophys J. 2012 Feb 8;102(3):523-31. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2011.12.049. Epub 2012 Feb 7.


Evidence has accumulated that the voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC), located on the outer membrane of mitochondria, plays a central role in apoptosis. The involvement of VDAC oligomerization in apoptosis has been suggested in various studies. However, it still remains unknown how exactly VDAC supramolecular assembly can be regulated in the membrane. This study addresses the role of lipids in this process. We investigate the effect of cardiolipin (CL) and phosphatidylglycerol (PG), anionic lipids important for mitochondria metabolism and apoptosis, on VDAC oligomerization. By applying fluorescence cross-correlation spectroscopy to VDAC reconstituted into giant unilamellar vesicles, we demonstrate that PG significantly enhances VDAC oligomerization in the membrane, whereas cardiolipin disrupts VDAC supramolecular assemblies. During apoptosis, the level of PG in mitochondria increases, whereas the CL level decreases. We suggest that the specific lipid composition of the outer mitochondrial membrane might be of crucial relevance and, thus, a potential cue for regulating the oligomeric state of VDAC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cardiolipins / metabolism
  • Cattle
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Detergents / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Phosphatidylglycerols / metabolism
  • Phospholipids / metabolism*
  • Protein Multimerization*
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Unilamellar Liposomes / chemistry
  • Unilamellar Liposomes / metabolism
  • Voltage-Dependent Anion Channel 1 / chemistry*


  • Cardiolipins
  • Detergents
  • Phosphatidylglycerols
  • Phospholipids
  • Unilamellar Liposomes
  • Voltage-Dependent Anion Channel 1