Found at the outer mitochondrial membrane, the voltage-dependent anion channel, VDAC, assumes a crucial position in the cell, serving as the main interface between mitochondrial and cellular metabolisms by mediating transport of ions and metabolites. VDAC thus functions as a gatekeeper, controlling cross-talk between mitochondria and the rest of the cell. Moreover, its location at the boundary between the mitochondria and the cytosol enables VDAC to interact with proteins that mediate and regulate the integration of mitochondrial functions with other cellular activities. Here, we review current knowledge related to the roles played by VDAC in the regulation of cell life and cell death, with relation to cancer. The current concepts of altered metabolism in cancer cells are presented with specific emphasis on mitochondrial, more specifically VDAC1-bound hexokinase (HK), facilitating and promoting the high glycolytic tumor phenotype. In this respect, the up-regulation of HK expression in tumor cells and its binding to VDAC provide both a metabolic benefit and apoptosis-suppressive capacity that offers the cell a growth advantage and increases its resistance to chemotherapy. VDAC has also been recognized as a key protein in mitochondria-mediated apoptosis since it is the proposed target for the pro- and antiapoptotic Bcl-2-family of proteins, as well as due to its function in the release of apoptotic proteins located in the inter-membranal space. These and other functions point to VDAC1 as being a rational target for the development of a new generation of therapeutics.
Keywords: Apoptosis, Bcl2 family proteins, cancer, cancer metabolism, cell death, channel, cholesterol, hexokinase, hypoxia, mitochondria, mitochondrial porin, VDAC
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