A folding variant of human alpha-lactalbumin induces mitochondrial permeability transition in isolated mitochondria

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Abstract

A human milk fraction containing multimeric alpha-lactalbumin (MAL) is able to kill cells via apoptosis. MAL is a protein complex of a folding variant of alpha-lactalbumin and lipids. Previous results have shown that upon treatment of transformed cells, MAL localizes to the mitochondria and cytochrome c is released into the cytosol. This is followed by activation of the caspase cascade. In this study, we further investigated the involvement of mitochondria in apoptosis induced by the folding variant of alpha-lactalbumin. Addition of MAL to isolated rat liver mitochondria induced a loss of the mitochondrial membrane potential (Delta Psi(m)), mitochondrial swelling and the release of cytochrome c. These changes were Ca(2+)-dependent and were prevented by cyclosporin A, an inhibitor of mitochondrial permeability transition. MAL also increased the rate of state 4 respiration in isolated mitochondria by exerting an uncoupling effect. This effect was due to the presence of fatty acids in the MAL complex because it was abolished completely by BSA. BSA delayed, but failed to prevent, mitochondrial swelling as well as dissipation of Delta Psi(m), indicating that the fatty acid content of MAL facilitated, rather than caused, these effects. Similar results were obtained with HAMLET (human alpha-lactalbumin made lethal to tumour cells), which is native alpha-lactalbumin converted in vitro to the apoptosis-inducing folding variant of the protein in complex with oleic acid. Our findings demonstrate that a folding variant of alpha-lactalbumin induces mitochondrial permeability transition with subsequent cytochrome c release, which in transformed cells may lead to activation of the caspase cascade and apoptotic death.

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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Immunology in the medical area
  • Microbiology in the medical area

Keywords

  • α-lactalbumin • cytochrome c • mitochondria • mitochondrial permeability transition • tumour cells
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-191
JournalEuropean Journal of Biochemistry
Volume268
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes