Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 207-212

First online:

Genetic strategies for dissecting mammalian and Drosophila voltage-dependent anion channel functions

  • William J. CraigenAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of MedicineDepartment of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine Email author 
  • , Brett H. GrahamAffiliated withDepartment of Molecular and Human Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine

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Voltage-dependent anion channels (VDACs), also known as mitochondrial porins, are a family of small pore-forming proteins of the mitochondrial outer membrane that are found in all eukaryotes. VDACs are thought to play important roles in the regulated flux of metabolites between the cytosolic and mitochondrial compartments, in overall energy metabolism via interactions with cytosolic kinases, and a debated role in programmed cell death (apoptosis). The mammalian genome contains three VDAC loci termed Vdac1, Vdac2, and Vdac3, raising the question as to what function each isoform may be performing. Based upon expression studies of the mouse VDACs in yeast, biophysical differences can be identified but the physiologic significance of these differences remains unclear. Creation of “knockout” cell lines and mice that lack one or more VDAC isoforms has led to the characterization of distinct phenotypes that provide a different set of insights into function which must be interpreted in the context of complex physiologic systems. Functions in male reproduction, the central nervous system and glucose homeostasis have been identified and require a deeper and more mechanistic examination. Annotation of the genome sequence of Drosophila melanogaster has recently revealed three additional genes (CG17137, CG17139, CG17140) with homology to porin, the previously described gene that encodes the VDAC of D. melanogaster. Molecular analysis of these novel VDACs has revealed a complex pattern of gene organization and expression. Sequence comparisons with other insect VDAC homologs suggest that this gene family evolved through a mechanism of duplication and divergence from an ancestral VDAC gene during the radiation of the genus Drosophila. Striking similarities to mouse VDAC mutants can be found that emphasize the conservation of function over a long evolutionary time frame.


Voltage-dependent Anion Channel Porin Mitochondria Drosophila Animal models