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J Surg Res. 2010 Oct;163(2):276-81. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2010.02.021. Epub 2010 Mar 12.

Targeting Bcl-2-mediated cell death as a novel therapy in pancreatic cancer.

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Department of Surgery, Division of Surgical Oncology, University of California, Davis, California, USA.



Bcl-2 is an essential regulator of programmed cell death (PCD). Overexpression of Bcl-2 is common in pancreatic cancer; the high levels have been shown to correlate with resistance to PCD. This resistance is mediated by binding of Bcl-2 via its BH-3 domain to diverse proteins, including the Bax/Bak family members, various protein kinases, and beclin 1, which are involved in regulation of autophagy (type II PCD). Small molecule inhibitors of BH-3-mediated binding of Bcl-2 have been recently developed, although no investigation has been conducted in pancreatic cancer, a malignancy characterized by extreme resistance to PCD.


The effect of the Bcl-2 binding inhibitor A-779024 on PCD was assessed by fluorescence activated cell sorting; the effect on Bcl-2 and other PCD-related proteins was analyzed by immunoblotting. Induction of autophagy was determined by fluorescence microscopy using a stably transfected GFP-LC3 construct to visualize autophagosome formation. Co-localization of Bcl-2 with binding partners regulating PCD was examined by immunoprecipitation and confocal immunofluorescent microscopy.


A-779024 induced PCD in a dose- and time-dependent fashion. No change was seen in the protein levels of Bcl-2, Bax, Bcl-XL, or Mcl-1. Contrary to prediction, A-779024 was ineffective at inducing autophagy in these cells. Co-localization studies demonstrated that Bcl-2 was not bound to beclin 1 and, therefore, treatment with A-779024 could not induce release of beclin 1 and initiation of autophagy.


Disruption of Bcl-2 activity using the small molecule inhibitor A-779024 induces apoptotic but not autophagic PCD. This approach may be a novel therapy, either alone or in combination with other treatments such as chemotherapy or autophagy modulating agents in pancreatic cancer.

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