Bif-1, a member of the endophilin B protein family, interacts with Bax and promotes interleukin-3 withdrawal-induced Bax conformational change and apoptosis when overexpressed in FL5.12 cells. Here, we provide evidence that Bif-1 plays a regulatory role in apoptotic activation of not only Bax but also Bak and appears to be involved in suppression of tumorigenesis. Inhibition of endogenous Bif-1 expression in HeLa cells by RNA interference abrogated the conformational change of Bax and Bak, cytochrome c release, and caspase 3 activation induced by various intrinsic death signals. Similar results were obtained in Bif-1 knockout mouse embryonic fibroblasts. While Bif-1 did not directly interact with Bak, it heterodimerized with Bax on mitochondria in intact cells, and this interaction was enhanced by apoptosis induction and preceded the Bax conformational change. Moreover, suppression of Bif-1 expression was associated with an enhanced ability of HeLa cells to form colonies in soft agar and tumors in nude mice. Taken together, these findings support the notion that Bif-1 is an important component of the mitochondrial pathway for apoptosis as a novel Bax/Bak activator, and loss of this proapoptotic molecule may contribute to tumorigenesis.
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