Bak functionally complements for loss of Bax during p14ARF-induced mitochondrial apoptosis in human cancer cells

Oncogene. 2006 Oct 26;25(50):6582-94. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1209668. Epub 2006 Jul 17.


In contrast to the initial notion that the biological activity of p14(ARF) strictly depends on a functional mdm-2/p53 signaling axis, we recently demonstrated that p14(ARF) mediates apoptosis in a p53/Bax-independent manner. Here, we show that p14(ARF) induces breakdown of the mitochondrial membrane potential and cytochrome c release before triggering caspase-9- and caspase-3/7-like activities in p53/Bax-deficient DU145 prostate cancer cells expressing wild-type Bak. Re-expression of Bax in these cells failed to further enhance p14(ARF)-induced apoptosis, suggesting that p14(ARF)-induced apoptosis primarily depends on Bak but not Bax in these cells. To further define the role of Bak and Bax in p14(ARF)-induced mitochondrial apoptosis, we employed short interference RNA for the knockdown of bak in isogeneic, p53 wild-type HCT116 colon cancer cells either proficient or deficient for Bax. There, combined loss of Bax and Bak attenuated p14(ARF)-induced apoptosis whereas single loss of Bax or Bak was only marginally effective, as in the case of DU145. Notably, HCT116 cells deficient for Bax and Bak failed to release cytochrome c and showed attenuated activation of caspase-9 (LEHDase) and caspase-3/caspase-7 (DEVDase) upon p14(ARF) expression. These data indicate that p14(ARF) triggers apoptosis via a Bax/Bak-dependent pathway in p53-proficient HCT116, whereas Bax is dispensable in p53-deficient DU145 cells. Nevertheless, a substantial proportion of p14(ARF)-induced cell death proceeds in a Bax/Bak-independent manner. This is also the case for inhibition of clonogenic growth that occurs, at least in part, through an entirely Bax/Bak-independent mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Apoptosis Inducing Factor / metabolism
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Caspase 7 / metabolism
  • Caspase 9 / metabolism
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Survival
  • Genes, p53 / physiology
  • HCT116 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p14ARF / metabolism*
  • bcl-2 Homologous Antagonist-Killer Protein / physiology*
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / genetics*


  • Apoptosis Inducing Factor
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p14ARF
  • bcl-2 Homologous Antagonist-Killer Protein
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase 7
  • Caspase 9
  • Caspases