The BCL-2 protein family: opposing activities that mediate cell death

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2008 Jan;9(1):47-59. doi: 10.1038/nrm2308.


BCL-2 family proteins, which have either pro- or anti-apoptotic activities, have been studied intensively for the past decade owing to their importance in the regulation of apoptosis, tumorigenesis and cellular responses to anti-cancer therapy. They control the point of no return for clonogenic cell survival and thereby affect tumorigenesis and host-pathogen interactions and regulate animal development. Recent structural, phylogenetic and biological analyses, however, suggest the need for some reconsideration of the accepted organizational principles of the family and how the family members interact with one another during programmed cell death. Although these insights into interactions among BCL-2 family proteins reveal how these proteins are regulated, a unifying hypothesis for the mechanisms they use to activate caspases remains elusive.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • Models, Molecular
  • Phylogeny
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / physiology*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2