N-terminal truncation of antiapoptotic MCL1, but not G2/M-induced phosphorylation, is associated with stabilization and abundant expression in tumor cells

J Biol Chem. 2007 Aug 17;282(33):23919-36. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M700938200. Epub 2007 Jun 8.


The antiapoptotic BCL2 family member MCL1 is normally up- and down-modulated in response to environmental signals and conditions, but is constitutively expressed in cancer where it promotes cell survival and drug resistance. A post-translational modification identified here, truncation at the N terminus, was found to act along with previously described ERK- and GSK3-induced phosphorylation events to regulate the turnover of the MCL1 protein and thus its availability for antiapoptotic effects. Although both N-terminally truncated and full-length MCL1 contain sequences enriched in proline, glutamic acid, serine, and threonine and were susceptible to proteasomal degradation, the truncated form decayed less rapidly and was maintained for an extended period in the presence of ERK activation. This was associated with extended cell survival because the truncated form of MCL1 (unlike those of BCL2 and BCLX) retained antiapoptotic activity. N-terminal truncation slightly increased the electrophoretic mobility of MCL1 and differed from the phosphorylation/band shift to decreased mobility, which occurs in the G2/M phase and was not found to affect MCL1 turnover. The N-terminally truncated form of MCL1 was expressed to varying extents in normal lymphoid tissues and was the predominant form present in lymphomas from transgenic mice and human tumor lines of B-lymphoid origin. The degradation versus stabilized expression of antiapoptotic MCL1 is thus controlled by N-terminal truncation as well as by ERK- and GSK3 (but not G2/M)-induced phosphorylation. These modifications may contribute to dysregulated MCL1 expression in cancer and represent targets for promoting its degradation to enhance tumor cell death.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / genetics*
  • Cell Division*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cells, Cultured
  • G2 Phase*
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Myeloid Cell Leukemia Sequence 1 Protein
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / genetics*


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Mcl1 protein, mouse
  • Myeloid Cell Leukemia Sequence 1 Protein
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2