Biochimica et Biophysica Acta. Molecular Cell Research vol:1843 issue:10 pages:2240-2252
Anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 contributes to cancer formation and progression by promoting the survival of altered cells. Hence, it is a prime target for novel specific anti-cancer therapeutics. In addition to its canonical anti-apoptotic role, Bcl-2 has an inhibitory effect on cell-cycle progression. Bcl-2 acts at two different intracellular compartments, the mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). At the mitochondria, Bcl-2 via its hydrophobic cleft scaffolds the Bcl-2-homology (BH) domain 3 (BH3) of pro-apoptotic Bcl-2-family members. Small molecules (like BH3 mimetics) can disrupt this interaction, resulting in apoptotic cell death in cancer cells. At the ER, Bcl-2 modulates Ca(2+) signaling, thereby promoting proliferation while increasing resistance to apoptosis. Bcl-2 at the ER acts via its N-terminal BH4 domain, which directly binds and inhibits the inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor (IP3R), the main intracellular Ca(2+)-release channel. Tools targeting the BH4 domain of Bcl-2 reverse Bcl-2's inhibitory action on IP3Rs and trigger pro-apoptotic Ca(2+) signaling in cancer B-cells, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) cells. The sensitivity of DLBCL cells to BH4-domain targeting tools strongly correlated with the expression levels of the IP3R2 channel, the IP3R isoform with the highest affinity for IP3. Interestingly, bio-informatic analysis of a database of primary CLL patient cells also revealed a transcriptional upregulation of IP3R2. Finally, this review proposes a model, in which cancer cell survival depends on Bcl-2 at the mitochondria and/or the ER. This dependence likely will have an impact on their responses to BH3-mimetic drugs and BH4-domain targeting tools. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Calcium Signaling in Health and Disease.