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Neuron. 2003 Jun 19;38(6):899-914.

JNK-mediated BIM phosphorylation potentiates BAX-dependent apoptosis.

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Department of Neurology and Department of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology, Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, MO 63110, USA.


Trophic factor deprivation (TFD) activates c-Jun N-terminal kinases (JNKs), culminating in coordinate AP1-dependent transactivation of the BH3-only BCL-2 proteins BIM(EL) and HRK, which in turn are critical for BAX-dependent cytochrome c release, caspase activation, and apoptosis. Here, we report that TFD caused not only induction but also phosphorylation of BIM(EL). Mitochondrially localized JNKs but not upstream activators, like mixed-lineage kinases (MLKs) or mitogen-activated protein kinase kinases (MKKs), specifically phosphorylated BIM(EL) at Ser65, potentiating its proapoptotic activity. Inhibition of the JNK pathway attenuated BIM(EL) expression, prevented BIM(EL) phosphorylation, and abrogated TFD-induced apoptosis. Conversely, activation of this pathway promoted BIM(EL) expression and phosphorylation, causing BIM- and BAX-dependent cell death. Thus, JNKs regulate the proapoptotic activity of BIM(EL) during TFD, both transcriptionally and posttranslationally.

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