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Heat Shock Protein 70 Neutralizes Apoptosis-Inducing Factor
Programmed cell death (apoptosis) is the physiological process responsible for the demise of superfluous, aged, damaged, mutated, and ectopic cells. Its normal function is essential both for embryonic development and for maintenance of adult tissue homeostasis. Deficient apoptosis participates in cancerogenesis, whereas excessive apoptosis leads to unwarranted cell loss accounting for disparate diseases including neurodegeneration and AIDS. One critical step in the process of apoptosis consists in the permeabilization of mitochondrial membranes, leading to the release of proteins which normally are secluded behind the outer mitochondrial membrane. For example, cytochrome c, which is normally confined to the mitochondrial intermembrane space, is liberated from mitochondria and interacts with a cytosolic protein, Apaf-1, causing its oligomerization and constitution of the so-called apoptosome, a protein complex which activates a specific class of cysteine proteases, the caspases. Another example concerns the so-called apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF), another mitochondrial intermembrane protein which can translocate to the nucleus where it induces chromatin condensation and DNA fragmentation.