An increase in the permeability of outer mitochondrial membrane is central to apoptotic cell death, and results in the release of several apoptogenic factors such as cytochrome c into the cytoplasm to activate downstream destructive programs. The voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC or mitochondrial porin) plays an essential role in disrupting the mitochondrial membrane barrier and is regulated directly by members of the Bcl-2 family proteins. Anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members interact with and close the VDAC, whereas some, but not all, proapoptotic members interact with VDAC to open protein-conducting pore through which apoptogenic factors pass. Although the VDAC is involved directly in breaking the mitochondrial membrane barrier and is a known component of the permeability transition pore complex, VDAC-dependent increase in outer membrane permeability can be independent of the permeability transition event such as mitochondrial swelling followed by rupture of the outer mitochondrial membrane. VDAC interacts not only with Bcl-2 family members but also with proteins such as gelsolin, an actin regulatory protein, and appears to be a convergence point for a variety of cell survival and cell death signals.

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