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Nat Cell Biol. 1999 Dec;1(8):E209-16.

Bcl-2 proteins: regulators of apoptosis or of mitochondrial homeostasis?

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Committee on Immunology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA.


Programmed cell death (apoptosis) is used by multicellular organisms during development and to maintain homeostasis within mature tissues. One of the first genes shown to regulate apoptosis was bcl-2. Subsequently, a number of Bcl-2-related proteins have been identified. Despite overwhelming evidence that Bcl-2 proteins are evolutionarily conserved regulators of apoptosis, their precise biochemical function remains controversial. Three biochemical properties of Bcl-2 proteins have been identified: their ability to localize constitutively and/or inducibly to the outer mitochondrial, outer nuclear and endoplasmic reticular membranes, their ability to form heterodimers with proteins bearing an amphipathic helical BH3 domain, and their ability to form ion-conducting channels in synthetic membranes. The discovery that mitochondria can play a key part in the induction of apoptosis has focused attention on the role that Bcl-2 proteins may have in regulating either mitochondrial physiology or mitochondria-dependent caspase activation. Here we attempt to synthesize our current understanding of the part played by mitochondria in apoptosis with a consideration of how Bcl-2 proteins might control cell death through an ability to regulate mitochondrial physiology.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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