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Cell Death Differ. 2018 Jan;25(1):65-80. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2017.186. Epub 2017 Nov 17.

BCL-2 family proteins: changing partners in the dance towards death.

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Biological Sciences, Sunnybrook Research Institute, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Department of Biochemistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.
Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.


The BCL-2 family of proteins controls cell death primarily by direct binding interactions that regulate mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP) leading to the irreversible release of intermembrane space proteins, subsequent caspase activation and apoptosis. The affinities and relative abundance of the BCL-2 family proteins dictate the predominate interactions between anti-apoptotic and pro-apoptotic BCL-2 family proteins that regulate MOMP. We highlight the core mechanisms of BCL-2 family regulation of MOMP with an emphasis on how the interactions between the BCL-2 family proteins govern cell fate. We address the critical importance of both the concentration and affinities of BCL-2 family proteins and show how differences in either can greatly change the outcome. Further, we explain the importance of using full-length BCL-2 family proteins (versus truncated versions or peptides) to parse out the core mechanisms of MOMP regulation by the BCL-2 family. Finally, we discuss how post-translational modifications and differing intracellular localizations alter the mechanisms of apoptosis regulation by BCL-2 family proteins. Successful therapeutic intervention of MOMP regulation in human disease requires an understanding of the factors that mediate the major binding interactions between BCL-2 family proteins in cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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