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J Biol Chem. 2011 Mar 4;286(9):7705-13. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.207639. Epub 2011 Jan 6.

BCL-2 is a downstream target of ATF5 that mediates the prosurvival function of ATF5 in a cell type-dependent manner.

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  • 1Department of Neural and Behavioral Sciences, Penn State University College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033, USA.


ATF5 loss of function has been shown previously to cause apoptotic cell death in glioblastoma and breast cancer cells but not in non-transformed astrocytes and human breast epithelial cells. The mechanism for the cell type-dependent survival function of ATF5 is unknown. We report here that the anti-apoptotic factor BCL-2 is a downstream target of ATF5 that mediates the prosurvival function of ATF5 in C6 glioma cells and MCF-7 breast cancer cells. ATF5 binds to an ATF5-specific regulatory element that is downstream of and adjacent to the negative regulatory element in the BCL-2 P2 promoter, stimulating BCL-2 expression. Highlighting the critical role of BCL-2 in ATF5-dependent cancer cell survival, expression of BCL-2 blocks death of C6 and MCF-7 cells induced by dominant-negative ATF5, and depletion of BCL-2 impairs ATF5-promoted cell survival. Moreover, we found that BCL-2 expression is not regulated by ATF5 in non-transformed rat astrocytes, mouse embryonic fibroblasts, and human breast epithelial cells, where expression of BCL-2 but not ATF5 is required for cell survival. These findings identify BCL-2 as an essential mediator for the cancer-specific cell survival function of ATF5 in glioblastoma and breast cancer cells and provide direct evidence that the cell type-specific function of ATF5 derives from differential regulation of downstream targets by ATF5 in different types of cells.

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