The role of Bcl-2 family members in tumorigenesis

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2004 Mar 1;1644(2-3):229-49. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamcr.2003.08.009.


The Bcl-2 family consists of about 20 homologues of important pro- and anti-apoptotic regulators of programmed cell death. The established mode of function of the individual members is to either preserve or disturb mitochondrial integrity, thereby inducing or preventing release of apoptogenic factors like Cytochrome c (Cyt c) from mitochondria. Recent findings also indicate further Bcl-2-controlled mitochondria-independent apoptosis pathways. Bcl-2 represents the founding member of the new and growing class of cell death inhibiting oncoproteins. In this review, we try to briefly summarize current models of Bcl-2 family function and to outline the work demonstrating the influence of deregulated Bcl-2 family member expression on tumorigenesis and cancer therapy. Since several Bcl-2 homologues, in addition to influencing apoptotic behaviour, also impinge on cell cycle progression, we discuss possible implications of this additional role for the expression of Bcl-2 family members in tumor cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Cycle
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Neoplasms / radiotherapy
  • Oncogene Proteins / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / physiology*
  • bcl-2 Homologous Antagonist-Killer Protein
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein


  • BAK1 protein, human
  • Bak1 protein, mouse
  • Bax protein, mouse
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • bcl-2 Homologous Antagonist-Killer Protein
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein