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J Natl Cancer Inst. 2000 Jul 5;92(13):1042-53.

Mitochondrion as a novel target of anticancer chemotherapy.

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  • 1Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Institut Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, France.


Mitochondrial membrane permeabilization is a critical event in the process leading to physiologic or chemotherapy-induced apoptosis (programmed cell death). This permeabilization event is, at least in part, under the control of the permeability transition pore complex (PTPC). Oncoproteins from the Bcl-2 family and tumor suppressor proteins from the Bax family interact with PTPC to inhibit or facilitate membrane permeabilization, respectively. Conventional chemotherapeutic agents elicit mitochondrial permeabilization in an indirect fashion by induction of endogenous effectors that are involved in the physiologic control of apoptosis. However, an increasing number of experimental anticancer drugs, including lonidamine, arsenite, betulinic acid, CD437, and several amphipathic cationic alpha-helical peptides, act directly on mitochondrial membranes and/or on the PTPC. Such agents may induce apoptosis in circumstances in which conventional drugs fail to act because endogenous apoptosis induction pathways, such as those involving p53, death receptors, or apical caspase activation, are disrupted. However, stabilization of the mitochondrial membrane by antiapoptotic Bcl-2-like proteins reduces the cytotoxic potential of most of these drugs. Targeting of specific PTPC components may overcome this Bcl-2-mediated apoptosis inhibition. One strategy involves cross-linking of critical redox-sensitive thiol groups within the PTPC; another involves the use of ligands to the mitochondrial benzodiazepine receptor. Thus, the design of mitochondrion-targeted cytotoxic drugs may constitute a novel strategy for overcoming apoptosis resistance.

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