Phosphorylation by Nek1 regulates opening and closing of voltage dependent anion channel 1

Yumay Chen, Maria Gaczynska, Pawel Osmulski, Rosaria Polci, Daniel J. Riley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


VDAC1 is a key component of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore. To initiate apoptosis and certain other forms of cell death, mitochondria become permeable such that cytochrome c and other pre-apoptotic molecules resident inside the mitochondria enter the cytosol and activate apoptotic cascades. We have shown recently that VDAC1 interacts directly with never-in-mitosis A related kinase 1 (Nek1), and that Nek1 phosphorylates VDAC1 on Ser193 to prevent excessive cell death after injury. How this phosphorylation regulates the activity of VDAC1, however, has not yet been reported. Here, we use atomic force microscopy (AFM) and cytochrome c conductance studies to examine the configuration of VDAC1 before and after phosphorylation by Nek1. Wild-type VDAC1 assumes an open configuration, but closes and prevents cytochrome c efflux when phosphorylated by Nek1. A VDAC1-Ser193Ala mutant, which cannot be phosphorylated by Nek1 under identical conditions, remains open and constitutively allows cytochrome c efflux. Conversely, a VDAC1-Ser193Glu mutant, which mimics constitutive phosphorylation by Nek1, remains closed by AFM and prevents cytochrome c leakage in the same liposome assays. Our data provide a mechanism to explain how Nek1 regulates cell death by affecting the opening and closing of VDAC1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)798-803
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 9 2010


  • Apoptosis
  • Atomic force microscope
  • Nek1
  • VDAC1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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