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Cancer Res. 1996 Jan 1;56(1):40-3.

Expression of the Bcl-2 homologue Mcl-1 correlates with survival of peripheral blood B lymphocytes.

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Department of Immunology, Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo, Norway.


Normal peripheral blood B lymphocytes undergo spontaneous apoptosis in vitro, and this process is regulated positively and negatively by several immunomodulatory stimuli. We have shown previously that Bcl-2 protein levels are unaltered by these factors, suggesting a Bcl-2-independent regulation of apoptosis in this system. Here, we have investigated the possibility that the three recently identified Bcl-2 homologues, Bax, Bcl-x, and Mcl-1, could be involved instead. Freshly isolated cells expressed both Bax and Mcl-1 protein, but only low levels of Bcl-xL and no detectable Bcl-xS, as determined by Western blot analysis. Upon culture of cells with apoptotic or survival stimuli, Bax and Bcl-xL protein levels remained relatively unchanged. By contrast, Mcl-1 levels decreased markedly in cells undergoing apoptosis in medium and, even more dramatically, after treatment with the apoptotic stimuli transforming growth factor beta 1 and forskolin. This decrease was rapid and preceded cell death. Furthermore, all the survival stimuli tested (interleukin 4, anti-IgM antibodies, and the phorbol ester 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate) prevented the decline in Mcl-1 levels. This striking correlation between cell survival and Mcl-1 expression in peripheral blood B cells suggests the possible involvement of Mcl-1, instead of Bcl-2, in the regulation of apoptosis in these cells. The present study is the first one linking this novel Bcl-2 homologue to the control of cell death in normal cells.

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