Myxoma virus M11L blocks apoptosis through inhibition of conformational activation of Bax at the mitochondria

Jin Su, Gen Wang, John W. Barrett, Timothy S. Irvine, Xiujuan Gao, Grant McFadden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Many viruses inhibit or retard apoptosis, a strategy that subverts one of the most ancient antiviral mechanisms. M11L, a myxoma virus-encoded antiapoptotic protein, has been previously shown to localize to mitochondria and block apoptosis of virus-infected cells (H. Everett, M. Barry, S. F. Lee, X. J. Sun, K. Graham, J. Stone, R. C. Bleackley, and G. McFadden, J. Exp. Med. 191:1487-1498, 2000; H. Everett, M. Barry, X. Sun, S. F. Lee, C. Frantz, L. G. Berthiaume, G. McFadden, and R. C. Bleackley, J. Exp. Med. 196:1127-1139, 2002; and G. Wang, J. W. Barrett, S. H. Nazarian, H. Everett, X. Gao, C. Bleackley, K. Colwill, M. F. Moran, and G. McFadden, J. Virol. 78:7097-7111, 2004). This protection from apoptosis involves constitutive-forming inhibitory complexes with the peripheral benzodiazepine receptor and Bak on the outer mitochondrial membrane. Here, we extend the study to investigate the interference of M11L with Bax activation during the process of apoptosis. Myxoma virus infection triggers an early apoptotic signal that induces rapid Bax translocation from cytoplasm to mitochondria, despite the existence of various viral antiapoptotic proteins. However, in the presence of M11L, the structural activation of Bax at the mitochondrial membrane, which is characterized by the occurrence of a Bax conformational change, is blocked in both M11L-expressing myxoma-infected cells and M11L-transfected cells under apoptotic stimulation. In addition, inducible binding of M11L to the mitochondrially localized Bax is detected in myxoma virus-infected cells and in M11L/Bax-cotransfected cells as measured by immunoprecipitation and tandem affinity purification analysis, respectively. Importantly, this inducible Bax/M11L interaction is independent of Bak, demonstrated by the complete block of Bax-mediated apoptosis in myxoma-infected cells that lack Bak expression. Our findings reveal that myxoma M11L modulates apoptosis by multiple independent strategies which all contribute to the blockade of apoptosis at the mitochondrial checkpoint.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1140-1151
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of virology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Insect Science
  • Virology


Dive into the research topics of 'Myxoma virus M11L blocks apoptosis through inhibition of conformational activation of Bax at the mitochondria'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this