Relative level of expression of Bax and Bcl-XL determines the cellular fate of apoptosis/necrosis induced by the overexpression of Bax

Oncogene. 1999 Oct 7;18(41):5703-13. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1202966.


The Bax protein plays a critical role in the apoptosis of cancers induced by radiotherapy or chemotherapy, which induce both apoptosis and necrosis. We transduced various glioblastoma cells with the Bax gene via an adenoviral vector and found that A-172 cells led to necrotic cell death, while U251 cells apoptotic cell death, even though a similar level of Bax protein was introduced. A-172 cells displayed a much higher constitutive expression of the Bcl-XL protein compared with that of U251 cells. Upon simultaneous overexpression of the Bcl-XL and Bax proteins in the U251 cells, Bax-induced apoptosis of U251 cells was suppressed and an increase in the number of necrotic cells was seen. Moreover, induction of a higher amount of Bax protein in A-172 cells increased the percentage of apoptotic cells. In conclusion, if a cancerous cell expresses a high enough amount of Bax to undergo death, apoptosis will be induced. If a cancerous cell expresses a level of Bcl-XL which prevents Bax-induced apoptosis, the overexpression of Bax leads to necrotic cell death.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Nucleus / ultrastructure
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Glioblastoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Necrosis
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Permeability
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / physiology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / biosynthesis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / physiology*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / physiology
  • Transfection
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / pathology
  • Vacuoles / ultrastructure
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • bcl-X Protein


  • BAX protein, human
  • BCL2L1 protein, human
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • bcl-X Protein
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases