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Cell Death Differ. 2011 Jan;18(1):38-47. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2010.68. Epub 2010 Jun 11.

Bcl-2 proteins regulate ER membrane permeability to luminal proteins during ER stress-induced apoptosis.

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Molecular Targets Group, James Graham Brown Cancer Center, Department of Medicine, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40202, USA.


Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress-induced apoptosis may arise from multiple environmental and pharmacological causes, but the precise mechanism(s) involved are not completely known. Members of Bcl-2 protein family are important regulators of apoptosis. In this study, we report that in a process dependent on the proapoptotic Bcl-2 members Bax and Bak, exogenously expressed fluorescent protein localized to the ER lumen is released into the cytosol in cells undergoing ER stress. Upon ER stress induction, endogenous ER luminal proteins are also released into the cytosol in a similar manner accompanied by translocation and anchorage of Bax to the ER membrane. In addition, Bax and truncated-Bid (tBid) mediate a global increase in ER membrane permeability to ER luminal proteins in vitro. Importantly, antiapoptotic Bcl-X(L) antagonizes the effects of proapoptotic Bcl-2 proteins on ER membrane permeability. Consistent with Bax translocation to the ER membrane in whole apoptotic cells, there is also increased tight association of Bax with the ER membrane correlated with the increase in ER membrane permeability in vitro. Overall, these data suggest that the regulation of ER membrane permeability by Bcl-2 proteins could be an important molecular mechanism of ER stress-induced apoptosis.

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