A critical hallmark of cancer cell survival is evasion of apoptosis. This is commonly due to overexpression of anti-apoptotic proteins such as Bcl-2, Bcl-XL, and Mcl-1, which bind to the BH3 α-helical domain of pro-apoptotic proteins such as Bax, Bak, Bad, and Bim, and inhibit their function. We designed a BH3 α-helical mimetic BH3-M6 that binds to Bcl-XL and Mcl-1 and prevents their binding to fluorescently labeled Bak- or Bim-BH3 peptides in vitro. Using several approaches, we demonstrate that BH3-M6 is a pan-Bcl-2 antagonist that inhibits the binding of Bcl-X L, Bcl-2, and Mcl-1 to multi-domain Bax or Bak, or BH3-only Bim or Bad in cell-free systems and in intact human cancer cells, freeing up pro-apoptotic proteins to induce apoptosis. BH3-M6 disruption of these protein-protein interactions is associated with cytochrome c release from mitochondria, caspase-3 activation and PARP cleavage. Using caspase inhibitors and Bax and Bak siRNAs, we demonstrate that BH3-M6-induced apoptosis is caspaseand Bax-, but not Bak-dependent. Furthermore, BH3-M6 disrupts Bcl-X L/Bim, Bcl-2/Bim, and Mcl-1/Bim protein-protein interactions and frees up Bim to induce apoptosis in human cancer cells that depend for tumor survival on the neutralization of Bim with Bcl-XL, Bcl-2, or Mcl-1. Finally, BH3-M6 sensitizes cells to apoptosis induced by the proteasome inhibitor CEP-1612.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology