c-Myc Blazing a Trail of Death: Coupling of the Mitochondrial and Death Receptor Apoptosis Pathways by c-Myc

Cell Cycle. 2007 Oct 15;6(20):2464-72. doi: 10.4161/cc.6.20.4917. Epub 2007 Aug 21.


TRAIL ligand induces selectively apoptosis in tumor cells by binding to two death receptors (DR4 and DR5) and holds promise as a potential therapeutic agent against cancer. While it has been known for long time that TRAIL receptors are commonly expressed in wide variety of normal tissues, it is not well understood why TRAIL kills tumor cells but leaves normal cells unharmed. The prototypic oncogene c-Myc promotes the cell cycle and simultaneously primes activation of the Bcl-2 family controlled mitochondria apoptosis pathway. A striking reflection of the c-Myc-dependent apoptotic sensitization is the dramatic c-Myc-induced vulnerability of cells to TRAIL and other death receptor ligands. Here we summarize the recent findings regarding the death mechanisms of TRAIL/TRAIL receptor system and the connection of c-Myc to the mitochondrial apoptosis pathway, focusing on our work that couples c-Myc via Bak to the TRAIL death receptor pathway. Finally, we present a mitochondria-priming model to explain how c-Myc-Bak interaction amplifies the TRAIL-induced caspase 8-Bid pathway to induce full-blown apoptosis. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the selective cytotoxicity of TRAIL and for the therapeutic exploitation of the death receptor pathway.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Death Domain / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • Receptors, Death Domain