Activation of the proapoptotic Bcl-2 protein Bax by a small molecule induces tumor cell apoptosis.
ABSTRACT: The proapoptotic Bcl-2 protein Bax by itself is sufficient to initiate apoptosis in almost all apoptotic paradigms. Thus, compounds that can facilitate disruptive Bax insertion into mitochondrial membranes have potential as cancer therapeutics. In our study, we have identified small-molecule compounds predicted to associate with the Bax hydrophobic groove by a virtual-screen approach. Among these, one lead compound (compound 106) promotes Bax-dependent but not Bak-dependent apoptosis. Importantly, this compound alters Bax protein stability in vitro and promotes the insertion of Bax into mitochondria, leading to Bax-dependent permeabilization of the mitochondrial outer membrane. Furthermore, as a single agent, compound 106 inhibits the growth of transplanted tumors, probably by inducing apoptosis in tumors. Our study has revealed a compound that activates Bax and induces Bax-dependent apoptosis, which may lead to the development of new therapeutic agents for cancer.
Project description:Bax is the major multidomain proapoptotic molecule that is required for apoptosis. It has been reported that phosphorylation of Bax at serine(S) 163 or S184 activates or inactivates its proapoptotic function, respectively. To uncover the mechanism(s) by which phosphorylation regulates the proapoptotic function of Bax, a series of serine (S)? alanine/glutamate (A/E) Bax mutants, including S163A, S184A, S163E, S184E, S163E/S184A (EA), S163A/S184E (AE), S163A/S184A (AA) and S163E/S184E (EE), were created to abrogate or mimic, respectively, either single or double-site phosphorylation. The compound Bax mutants (i.e. EA and AE) can flesh out the functional contribution of individual phosphorylation site(s). WT and each of these Bax mutants were overexpressed in Bax(-/-) MEF or lung cancer H157 cells and the proapoptotic activities were compared. Intriguingly, expression of any of Bax mutants containing the mutation S?A at S184 (i.e. S184A, EA or AA) represents more potent proapoptotic activity as compared to WT Bax in association with increased 6A7 epitope conformational change, mitochondrial localization/insertion and prolonged half-life. In contrast, all Bax mutants containing the mutation S?E at S184 (i.e. S184E, AE or EE) have a mobility-shift and fail to insert into mitochondrial membranes with decreased protein stability and less apoptotic activity. Unexpectedly, mutation either S?A or S?E at S163 site does not significantly affect the proapoptotic activity of Bax. These findings indicate that S184 but not S163 is the major phosphorylation site for functional regulation of Bax's activity. Therefore, manipulation of the phosphorylation status of Bax at S184 may represent a novel strategy for cancer treatment.
Project description:BCL-2 family proteins are key regulators of the apoptotic pathway. Antiapoptotic members sequester the BCL-2 homology 3 (BH3) death domains of proapoptotic members such as BAX to maintain cell survival. The antiapoptotic BH3-binding groove has been successfully targeted to reactivate apoptosis in cancer. We recently identified a geographically distinct BH3-binding groove that mediates direct BAX activation, suggesting a new strategy for inducing apoptosis by flipping BAX's 'on switch'. Here we applied computational screening to identify a BAX activator molecule that directly and selectively activates BAX. We demonstrate by NMR and biochemical analyses that the molecule engages the BAX trigger site and promotes the functional oligomerization of BAX. The molecule does not interact with the BH3-binding pocket of antiapoptotic proteins or proapoptotic BAK and induces cell death in a BAX-dependent fashion. To our knowledge, we report the first gain-of-function molecular modulator of a BCL-2 family protein and demonstrate a new paradigm for pharmacologic induction of apoptosis.
Project description:BCL-2-associated X protein (BAX) is a critical apoptotic regulator that can be transformed from a cytosolic monomer into a lethal mitochondrial oligomer, yet drug strategies to modulate it are underdeveloped due to longstanding difficulties in conducting screens on this aggregation-prone protein. Here, we overcame prior challenges and performed an NMR-based fragment screen of full-length human BAX. We identified a compound that sensitizes BAX activation by binding to a pocket formed by the junction of the ?3-?4 and ?5-?6 hairpins. Biochemical and structural analyses revealed that the molecule sensitizes BAX by allosterically mobilizing the ?1-?2 loop and BAX BH3 helix, two motifs implicated in the activation and oligomerization of BAX, respectively. By engaging a region of core hydrophobic interactions that otherwise preserve the BAX inactive state, the identified compound reveals fundamental mechanisms for conformational regulation of BAX and provides a new opportunity to reduce the apoptotic threshold for potential therapeutic benefit.
Project description:BCL-2 family proteins converge at the mitochondrial outer membrane to regulate apoptosis and maintain the critical balance between cellular life and death. This physiologic process is essential to organism homeostasis and relies on protein-protein and protein-lipid interactions among BCL-2 family proteins in the mitochondrial lipid environment. Here, we find that trans-2-hexadecenal (t-2-hex), previously implicated in regulating BAX-mediated apoptosis, does so by direct covalent reaction with C126, which is located on the surface of BAX at the junction of its ?5/?6 core hydrophobic hairpin. The application of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry, specialized t-2-hex-containing liposomes, and BAX mutational studies in mitochondria and cells reveals structure-function insights into the mechanism by which covalent lipidation at the mitochondria sensitizes direct BAX activation. The functional role of BAX lipidation as a control point of mitochondrial apoptosis could provide a therapeutic strategy for BAX modulation by chemical modification of C126.
Project description:Overwhelming evidence indicates that Bax and Bak are indispensable for mediating cytochrome c release from mitochondria during apoptosis. Here we report a Bax/Bak-independent mechanism of cytochrome c release and apoptosis. We identified a natural diterpenoid compound that induced apoptosis in bax/bak double knock-out murine embryonic fibroblasts and substantially reduced the tumor growth from these cells implanted in mice. Treatment with the compound significantly increased expression of Bim, which migrated to mitochondria, altering the conformation of and forming oligomers with resident Bcl-2 to induce cytochrome c release and caspase activation. Importantly, purified Bim and Bcl-2 proteins cooperated to permeabilize a model mitochondrial outer membrane; this was accompanied by oligomerization of these proteins and deep embedding of Bcl-2 in the membrane. Therefore, the diterpenoid compound induces a structural and functional conversion of Bcl-2 through Bim to permeabilize the mitochondrial outer membrane, thereby inducing apoptosis independently of Bax and Bak. Because Bcl-2 family proteins play important roles in cancer development and relapse, this novel cell death mechanism can be explored for developing more effective anticancer therapeutics.
Project description:Bax, a central death regulator, is required at the decisional stage of apoptosis. We recently identified serine 184 (S184) of Bax as a critical functional switch controlling its proapoptotic activity. Here we used the structural pocket around S184 as a docking site to screen the NCI library of small molecules using the UCSF-DOCK programme suite. Three compounds, small-molecule Bax agonists SMBA1, SMBA2 and SMBA3, induce conformational changes in Bax by blocking S184 phosphorylation, facilitating Bax insertion into mitochondrial membranes and forming Bax oligomers. The latter leads to cytochrome c release and apoptosis in human lung cancer cells, which occurs in a Bax- but not Bak-dependent fashion. SMBA1 potently suppresses lung tumour growth via apoptosis by selectively activating Bax in vivo without significant normal tissue toxicity. Development of Bax agonists as a new class of anticancer drugs offers a strategy for the treatment of lung cancer and other Bax-expressing malignancies.
Project description:The Bcl-2-associated X protein (Bax) and Bcl-2-antagonist/killer (Bak) are essential regulators of lymphocyte apoptosis, but whether they play a role in viable T cell function remains unclear. Here, we report that T cells lacking both Bax and Bak display defects in antigen-specific proliferation because of Ca(2+)-signaling defects. Bax(-/-), Bak(-/-) T cells displayed defective T cell receptor (TCR)- and inositol-1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP(3))-dependent Ca(2+) mobilization because of altered endoplasmic reticulum (ER) Ca(2+) regulation that was reversed by Bax's reintroduction. The ability of TCR-dependent Ca(2+) signals to stimulate mitochondrial NADH production in excess of that utilized for ATP synthesis was dependent on Bax and Bak. Blunting of Ca(2+)-induced mitochondrial NADH elevation in the absence of Bax and Bak resulted in decreased reactive-oxygen-species production, which was required for T cell proliferation. Together, the data establish that Bax and Bak play an essential role in the control of T cell proliferation by modulating ER Ca(2+) release.
Project description:Bax is activated and translocated onto mitochondria to mediate cytochrome c release and apoptosis. The molecular mechanisms of Bax activation during apoptosis remain a subject of debate. We addressed the question of whether reactive oxygen species could directly activate Bax for its subsequent translocation and apoptosis. Using the SW480 human colon adenocarcinoma cell line stably expressing Bax fused to GFP, we showed that H2O2 induces Bax conformational change, mitochondrial translocation, and subsequent oligomerization at mitochondria. We found that H2O2-induced Bax activation is dependent on the conserved cysteine residue 62 of Bax. Mutation of cysteine 62, but not cysteine 126, to serine or alanine abolished its activation by H2O2 but not other death stimuli, both in SW480 and Bax-deficient HCT116 cells, whereas wild type Bax sensitizes these cells to apoptosis. Cysteines of Bax could chemically react with H2O2. Mutation of Bax BH3 domain in the presence of cysteine 62 also abolished Bax proapoptotic activity. We conclude that reactive oxygen species could be a direct signal for Bax activation by reacting with cysteine residues. Our results identify a critical role of cysteine 62 in oxidative stress-induced Bax activation and subsequent apoptosis.
Project description:During apoptosis, engagement of the mitochondrial pathway involves a decisive event characterized by the release of mitochondrial intermembrane space proteins, such as cytochrome c. This permeabilization of the mitochondrial outer membrane depends on activation and oligomerization of multidomain Bcl-2-family proteins Bax or Bak. Although specific members of the Bcl-2 family can activate these proapoptotic proteins, we found that heat directly activated Bax or Bak to induce cytochrome c release. A preparation of mitochondria heated at 43 degrees C released cytochrome c in association with Bak oligomerization, and Bcl-xL prevented these events. Similarly, heat induced the oligomerization of recombinant Bax, conferring an ability to permeabilize mitochondria. Compared with wild-type cells, bax(-/-)bak(-/-) mouse embryonic fibroblasts and mitochondria isolated from these cells were resistant to heat-induced cytochrome c release. Cytosol from untreated cells inhibited heat-activated Bax or Bak; however, depletion of cytosolic Bcl-xL ablated this protection. Although mitochondria heated in the presence of cytosol did not release cytochrome c, they displayed a dramatic increase in sensitivity to permeabilization by the BH3-only protein Bid. Additionally, a peptide corresponding to the BH3 domain of Puma counteracted the inhibitory effect of cytosol and permitted heat-activated Bak to permeabilize the mitochondria. Therefore, heat represents a condition under which multidomain proapoptotic proteins are activated, and this activation is regulated by both antiapoptotic and BH3-only members of the Bcl-2 family. Our results support an emerging paradigm, wherein the activation of Bax or Bak and the blockade of antiapoptotic Bcl-2 proteins are pivotal steps in the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis.
Project description:The E3 ubiquitin ligase Parkin is a key effector of the removal of damaged mitochondria by mitophagy. Parkin determines cell fate in response to mitochondrial damage, with its loss promoting early onset Parkinson's disease and potentially also cancer progression. Controlling a cell's apoptotic response is essential to co-ordinate the removal of damaged mitochondria. We report that following mitochondrial damage-induced mitophagy, Parkin directly ubiquitinates the apoptotic effector protein BAK at a conserved lysine in its hydrophobic groove, a region that is crucial for BAK activation by BH3-only proteins and its homo-dimerisation during apoptosis. Ubiquitination inhibited BAK activity by impairing its activation and the formation of lethal BAK oligomers. Parkin also suppresses BAX-mediated apoptosis, but in the absence of BAX ubiquitination suggesting an indirect mechanism. In addition, we find that BAK-dependent mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilisation during apoptosis promotes PINK1-dependent Parkin activation. Hence, we propose that Parkin directly inhibits BAK to suppress errant apoptosis thereby allowing the effective clearance of damaged mitochondria, but also promotes clearance of apoptotic mitochondria to limit their potential pro-inflammatory effect.