Bax and Bcl-2 interaction in a transgenic mouse model of familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

J Neurochem. 1999 Dec;73(6):2460-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1471-4159.1999.0732460.x.


It has been proposed that mutations in copper/zinc-superoxide dismutase (SOD1), the only proven cause of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), induce the disease by a toxic property that promotes apoptosis. Consistent with this, we have demonstrated that overexpression of Bcl-2, a protein that inhibits apoptosis, attenuates neurodegeneration produced by the familial ALS-linked SOD1 mutant G93A (mSOD1). Herein, we assessed the status of key members of the Bcl-2 family in the spinal cord of transgenic mSOD1 mice at different stages of the disease. In asymptomatic transgenic mSOD1 mice, expression of Bcl-2, Bcl-XL, Bad, and Bax does not differ from that in nontransgenic mice. In contrast, in symptomatic mice, expression of Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL, which inhibit apoptosis, is reduced, whereas expression of Bad and Bax, which stimulate apoptosis, is increased. These alterations are specific to affected brain regions and are caused by the mutant and not by the normal SOD1 enzyme. Relevant to the neuroprotective effects of Bcl-2 in transgenic mSOD1 mice, overexpression of Bcl-2 increases the formation of Bcl-2:Bax heterodimers, which abolish the Bax proapoptotic property. This study demonstrates significant alterations in the expression of key members of the Bcl-2 family associated with mSOD1 deleterious effects. That these changes contribute to the neurodegenerative process in this model of ALS is supported by our observations in double transgenic mSOD1/Bcl-2 mice in which the pernicious increase of Bax is tempered by an increase in formation of Bcl-2:Bax heterodimers. Based on these findings, it may be concluded that Bcl-2 family members appear as invaluable targets for the development of new neuroprotective therapies in ALS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Dimerization
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Motor Neuron Disease / genetics
  • Motor Neuron Disease / metabolism*
  • Nerve Degeneration / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Spinal Cord / metabolism*
  • Spinal Cord / pathology
  • Superoxide Dismutase / deficiency*
  • Superoxide Dismutase / genetics
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • bcl-Associated Death Protein
  • bcl-X Protein


  • BAD protein, human
  • BAX protein, human
  • BCL2L1 protein, human
  • Bad protein, mouse
  • Bax protein, mouse
  • Bcl2l1 protein, mouse
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • bcl-Associated Death Protein
  • bcl-X Protein
  • Superoxide Dismutase