Calpain I induces cleavage and release of apoptosis-inducing factor from isolated mitochondria

Brian M. Polster, Gorka Basańez, Aitor Etxebarria, J. Marie Hardwick, David G. Nicholls

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

348 Scopus citations


The translocation of apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) from mitochondria to the nucleus has been implicated in the mechanism of glutamate excitotoxicity in cortical neurons and has been observed in vivo following acute rodent brain injuries. However, the mechanism and time course of AIF redistribution to the nucleus is highly controversial. Because elevated intracellular calcium is one of the most ubiquitous features of neuronal cell death, this study tested the hypothesis that cleavage of AIF by the calcium-activated protease calpain mediates its release from mitochondria. Both precursor and mature forms of recombinant AIF were cleaved near the amino terminus by calpain I in vitro. Mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization by truncated Bid induced cytochrome c release from isolated liver or brain mitochondria but only induced AIF release in the presence of active calpain. Enzymatic inhibition of calpain by calpeptin precluded AIF release, demonstrating that proteolytic activity was required for release. Calpeptin and the mitochondrial permeability transition pore antagonist cyclosporin A also inhibited calcium-induced AIF release from mouse liver mitochondria, implicating the involvement of an endogenous mitochondrial calpain in release of AIF during permeability transition. Cleavage of AIF directly decreased its association with pure lipid vesicles of mitochondrial inner membrane composition. Taken together, these results define a novel mechanism of AIF release involving calpain processing and identify a potential molecular checkpoint for cytoprotective interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6447-6454
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 25 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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