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PLoS One. 2010 Feb 8;5(2):e9103. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0009103.

Extracellular BCL2 proteins are danger-associated molecular patterns that reduce tissue damage in murine models of ischemia-reperfusion injury.

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Department of Surgery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States of America.



Ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury contributes to organ dysfunction in a variety of clinical disorders, including myocardial infarction, stroke, organ transplantation, and hemorrhagic shock. Recent investigations have demonstrated that apoptosis as an important mechanism of cell death leading to organ dysfunction following I/R. Intracellular danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) released during cell death can activate cytoprotective responses by engaging receptors of the innate immune system.


Ischemia was induced in the mouse hind limb by tourniquet or in the heart by coronary artery ligation. Reperfusion injury of skeletal or cardiac muscle was markedly reduced by intraperitoneal or subcutaneous injection of recombinant human (rh)BCL2 protein or rhBCL2-related protein A1 (BCL2A1) (50 ng/g) given prior to ischemia or at the time of reperfusion. The cytoprotective activity of extracellular rhBCL2 or rhBCL2A1 protein was mapped to the BH4 domain, as treatment with a mutant BCL2 protein lacking the BH4 domain was not protective, whereas peptides derived from the BH4 domain of BCL2 or the BH4-like domain of BCL2A1 were. Protection by extracellular rhBCL2 or rhBCL2A1 was associated with a reduction in apoptosis in skeletal and cardiac muscle following I/R, concomitant with increased expression of endogenous mouse BCL2 (mBCL2) protein. Notably, treatment with rhBCL2A1 protein did not protect mice deficient in toll-like receptor-2 (TLR2) or the adaptor protein, myeloid differentiation factor-88 (MyD88).


Treatment with cytokine-like doses of rhBCL2 or rhBCL2A1 protein or BH4-domain peptides reduces apoptosis and tissue injury following I/R by a TLR2-MyD88-dependent mechanism. These findings establish a novel extracellular cytoprotective activity of BCL2 BH4-domain proteins as potent cytoprotective DAMPs.

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