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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 Mar 17;95(6):2956-60.

Bcl-2 expression causes redistribution of glutathione to the nucleus.

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  • 1Department of Experimental Radiation Oncology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


In this study we used HeLa cells transfected with a conditional Bcl-2 expression construct to study the effects of Bcl-2 on reduced glutathione (GSH) metabolism. Our previous work demonstrated that depletion of GSH by culturing cells in tissue culture medium lacking the amino acids cysteine and methionine, essential for GSH biosynthesis, caused cells overexpressing Bcl-2 to become sensitized to apoptotic induction. Here we report that Bcl-2 also dramatically alters GSH compartmentalization. Cellular distribution of GSH, assayed by confocal microscopy, revealed that when Bcl-2 expression was suppressed GSH was uniformly distributed primarily in the cytosol, whereas overexpression of Bcl-2 led to a relocalization of GSH into the nucleus. Isolated nuclei readily accumulated radiolabeled GSH and maintained higher nuclear GSH concentration in direct relation to Bcl-2 nuclear protein levels. Moreover, exogenous GSH blocked apoptotic changes and caspase activity in isolated nuclei exposed to the pro-apoptotic protease granzyme B. Our results indicate that one of the functions of Bcl-2 is to promote sequestration of GSH into the nucleus, thereby altering nuclear redox and blocking caspase activity as well as other nuclear alterations characteristic of apoptosis. We speculate that this mechanism contributes to the suppression of apoptosis in cells with elevated Bcl-2 levels.

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