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Am J Physiol. 1998 Jul;275(1):L165-71. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.1998.275.1.L165.

Resistance of pleural mesothelioma cell lines to apoptosis: relation to expression of Bcl-2 and Bax.

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Department of Medicine and Lung Biology Center, San Francisco General Hospital, San Francisco, California 94110, USA.


A failure of normal apoptosis, often due to mutant p53, may contribute to the formation of a cancer and to its resistance to therapy. Mesothelioma, an asbestos-induced tumor, is highly resistant to therapy but generally expresses wild-type p53. We asked whether mesothelioma was resistant to apoptosis and whether resistance was associated with altered expression of the antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2 or proapoptotic protein Bax. We found that three mesothelioma cell lines (1 with wild-type p53) were highly resistant to apoptosis induced by oxidant stimuli (asbestos, H2O2) or nonoxidant stimuli (calcium ionophore) compared with primary cultured mesothelial cells. By immunostaining, one of these three lines expressed Bcl-2 but only during mitosis. By immunoblotting, 3 of 14 additional mesothelioma lines (9 of 14 with wild type p53) expressed Bcl-2 but all 14 of 14 expressed the proapoptotic Bax, giving a low ratio of Bcl-2 to Bax. We conclude that mesothelioma cell lines are resistant to apoptosis and that the failure in apoptosis is not explained by Bcl-2 but by other mechanisms that counteract the proapoptotic effect of Bax.

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