Bcl-2 family-regulated apoptosis in health and disease
Grant Dewson, Ruth M Kluck
Molecular Genetics of Cancer Division, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, Australia
Abstract: Apoptotic cell death is essential for embryonic development, tissue homeostasis, and a well-functioning immune system, with aberrant apoptosis contributing to numerous disease conditions. Inadequate cell death is a major contributing factor to tumorigenesis, while excess cell death contributes to neurodegeneration and autoimmune disease. The major pathway of apoptotic cell death, the mitochondrial pathway, is controlled by the Bcl-2 family of proteins. The members of this family, more than 17 in humans, share significant sequence and structural homology, and fulfil either prosurvival or proapoptotic roles. Specific interactions between these functionally polar proteins, and their relative expression levels, govern the susceptibility of each cell to toxic insults. Here we review the current understanding on how apoptotic cell death is controlled by this important protein family. We also discuss how excessive or insufficient cell death can contribute to disease, and how targeting the Bcl-2 family offers novel therapeutic opportunities.
Keywords: apoptosis, Bcl-2, cancer, cytochrome c, mitochondria
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