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Nat Neurosci. 2012 Feb 26;15(4):574-80. doi: 10.1038/nn.3054.

N-terminally cleaved Bcl-xL mediates ischemia-induced neuronal death.

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Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, USA.


Transient global ischemia in rats induces delayed death of hippocampal CA1 neurons. Early events include caspase activation, cleavage of anti-death Bcl-2 family proteins and large mitochondrial channel activity. However, whether these events have a causal role in ischemia-induced neuronal death is unclear. We found that the Bcl-2 and Bcl-x(L) inhibitor ABT-737, which enhances death of tumor cells, protected rats against neuronal death in a clinically relevant model of brain ischemia. Bcl-x(L) is prominently expressed in adult neurons and can be cleaved by caspases to generate a pro-death fragment, ΔN-Bcl-x(L). We found that ABT-737 administered before or after ischemia inhibited ΔN-Bcl-x(L)-induced mitochondrial channel activity and neuronal death. To establish a causal role for ΔN-Bcl-x(L), we generated knock-in mice expressing a caspase-resistant form of Bcl-x(L). The knock-in mice exhibited markedly reduced mitochondrial channel activity and reduced vulnerability to ischemia-induced neuronal death. These findings suggest that truncated Bcl-x(L) could be a potentially important therapeutic target in ischemic brain injury.

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