The c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase (JNK) is activated when cells are exposed to environmental stress, including UV radiation. Gene disruption studies demonstrate that JNK is essential for UV-stimulated apoptosis mediated by the mitochondrial pathway by a Bax/Bak-dependent mechanism. Here, we demonstrate that JNK phosphorylates two members of the BH3-only subgroup of Bcl2-related proteins (Bim and Bmf) that are normally sequestered by binding to dynein and myosin V motor complexes. Phosphorylation by JNK causes release from the motor complexes. These proapoptotic BH3-only proteins therefore provide a molecular link between the JNK signal transduction pathway and the Bax/Bak-dependent mitochondrial apoptotic machinery.
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