The VDAC2-BAK rheostat controls thymocyte survival

Decheng Ren, Hyungjin Kim, Ho Chou Tu, Todd D. Westergard, Jill K. Fisher, Jeff A. Rubens, James J.D. Hsieh, Emily H.Y. Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The proapoptotic proteins BAX and BAK constitute the mitochondrial apoptotic gateway that executes cellular demise after integrating death signals. The lethal BAK is kept in check by voltage-dependent anion channel 2 (VDAC2), a mammalian-restricted VDAC isoform. Here, we provide evidence showing a critical role for the VADC2-BAK complex in determining thymocyte survival in vivo. Genetic depletion of Vdac2 in the thymus resulted in excessive cell death and hypersensitivity to diverse death stimuli including engagement of the T cell receptor. These phenotypes were completely rescued by the concurrent deletion of Bak but not that of Bax. Thus, the VDAC2-BAK axis provides a mechanism that governs the homeostasis of thymocytes. Our study reveals a sophisticated built-in rheostat that likely fine-tunes immune competence to balance autoimmunity and immunodeficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)ra48
JournalScience signaling
Issue number85
StatePublished - Aug 25 2009


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