The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 63: 259 - 270 (2019)

Vol 63, Issue 6-7

Apoptosis in Hydra: function of HyBcl-2 like 4 and proteins of the transmembrane BAX inhibitor motif (TMBIM) containing family

Original Article | Published: 18 June 2019

Mina Motamedi, Laura Lindenthal, Anita Wagner, Margherita Kemper, Jasmin Moneer, Mona Steichele, Alexander Klimovich, Jörg Wittlieb, Marcell Jenewein and Angelika Böttger*

Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Biocentre, Munich, Germany


Mechanisms of programmed cell death differ between animals, plants and fungi. In animals, apoptotic cell death depends on caspases and Bcl-2 family proteins. These protein families are only found in multicellular animals, including cnidarians, insects and mammals. In contrast, members of the TMBIM-family of transmembrane proteins are conserved across all eukaryotes. Sequence comparisons of cell death related proteins between phyla indicate strong conservation of the genes involved. However, often it is not known whether this is paralleled by conservation of function. Here we present the first study to support an anti-apoptotic function of Bcl-2 like proteins in the cnidarian Hydra within a physiological context. We used transgenic Hydra expressing GFP-tagged HyBcl-2-like 4 protein in epithelial cells. The protein was localised to mitochondria and able to protect Hydra epithelial cells from apoptosis induced by either the PI(3) kinase inhibitor wortmannin or by starvation. Moreover, we identified members of the TMBIM-family in Hydra including HyBax-Inhibitor-1, HyLifeguard-1a and -1b and HyLifeguard 4. Expressing these TMBIM-family members in Hydra and human HEK cells, we found HyBax-inhibitor-1 protein localised to ER-membranes and HyLifeguard-family members localised to the plasma membrane and Golgi-vesicles. Moreover, HyBax-inhibitor-1 protected human cells from camptothecin induced apoptosis. This work illustrates that the investigated Bcl-2- and TMBIM-family members represent evolutionarily conserved mitochondrial, ER, Golgi and plasma membrane proteins with anti-apoptotic functions. The participation of ER and Golgi proteins in the regulation of programmed cell death might be a very ancient feature.


Hydra, bcl-2, lifeguard, TMBIM-family, Bax-inhibitor

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