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International Journal of Cell Biology
Volume 2010, Article ID 170215, 9 pages
Research Article

Mechanisms of ER Stress-Mediated Mitochondrial Membrane Permeabilization

Apoptosis Research Centre, School of Natural Sciences, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

Received 31 July 2009; Accepted 6 November 2009

Academic Editor: Adrienne M. Gorman

Copyright © 2010 Sanjeev Gupta et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


During apoptosis, the process of mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP) represents a point-of-no-return as it commits the cell to death. Here we have assessed the role of caspases, Bcl-2 family members and the mitochondrial permeability transition pore on ER stress-induced MOMP and subsequent cell death. Induction of ER stress leads to upregulation of several genes such as Grp78, Edem1, Erp72, Atf4, Wars, Herp, p58ipk, and ERdj4 and leads to caspase activation, release of mitochondrial intermembrane proteins and dissipation of mitochondrial transmembrane potential ( m). Mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) from caspase-9, -2 and, -3 knock-out mice were resistant to ER stress-induced apoptosis which correlated with decreased processing of pro-caspase-3 and -9. Furthermore, pretreatment of cells with caspase inhibitors (Boc-D.fmk and DEVD.fmk) attenuated ER stress-induced loss of m. However, only deficiency of caspase-9 and -2 could prevent ER stress-mediated loss of m. Bcl-2 overexpression or pretreatment of cells with the cell permeable BH4 domain (BH4-Tat) or the mitochondrial permeability transition pore inhibitors, bongkrekic acid or cyclosporine A, attenuated the ER stress-induced loss of m. These data suggest a role for caspase-9 and -2, Bcl-2 family members and the mitochondrial permeability transition pore in loss of mitochondrial membrane potential during ER stress-induced apoptosis.