Differential activation of apoptosis regulatory pathways during monocytic vs granulocytic differentiation: a requirement for Bcl-X(L)and XIAP in the prolonged survival of monocytic cells

Leukemia. 2003 Feb;17(2):390-400. doi: 10.1038/sj.leu.2402779.


Neutrophils and monocytes/macrophages are derived from common progenitors, but exhibit markedly different lifespans. Differentiated neutrophils are short-lived and die rapidly by apoptosis, while monocytic cells are longer-lived. In this report we used the HL-60 cell line as a model system to identify differences in apoptotic pathways which might account for the differing lifespans of granulocytic vs monocytic cells. We observed that induction of granulocytic differentiation by retinoic acid led to robust activation of the executioner protease caspase-3, and early onset of apoptosis. By contrast, caspase-3 was not appreciably activated during phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA)-induced monocytic differentiation, and apoptosis was delayed in these cells. Since the activation of caspase-3 is inhibited by members of the inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) and Bcl-2 protein families, we investigated the expression of anti-apoptotic members of these families. Induction of monocytic differentiation led to marked upregulation of the IAP protein XIAP, as well as the Bcl-2 family member Bcl-X(L). During granulocytic differentiation the levels of XIAP progressively declined, while Bcl-X(L) levels remained unchanged. A different IAP protein, survivin, was downregulated during differentiation along either lineage, as was expression of Bcl-2. The upregulation of Bcl-X(L) during monocytic differentiation coincided with phosphorylation/activation of STAT3, a known activator of bcl-X gene transcription. Moreover, Bcl-X(L) upregulation was dependent on MEK/ERK signaling. Upregulation of XIAP proceeded in a MEK/ERK-independent fashion. Treatment with antisense Bcl-X(L) or XIAP oligonucleotides resulted in significant loss of viability in cells differentiating along the monocytic lineage. Together, these findings indicate that the levels of XIAP and Bcl-X(L) are regulated by distinct pathways during monocytic differentiation, and that upregulation of these proteins contributes to the increased longevity of cells in the monocytic lineage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / physiology*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Granulocytes / cytology*
  • HL-60 Cells
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Monocytes / cytology*
  • Phorbol Esters / pharmacology
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism*
  • Time Factors
  • Tretinoin / pharmacology
  • X-Linked Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein
  • Zinc Fingers
  • bcl-X Protein


  • BCL2L1 protein, human
  • Phorbol Esters
  • Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • X-Linked Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein
  • XIAP protein, human
  • bcl-X Protein
  • phorbol-12-myristate
  • Tretinoin
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases