BAD: undertaker by night, candyman by day

Oncogene. 2008 Dec:27 Suppl 1:S53-70. doi: 10.1038/onc.2009.44.


The BH3-only pro-apoptotic proteins are upstream sensors of cellular damage that selectively respond to specific, proximal death and survival signals. Genetic models and biochemical studies indicate that these molecules are latent killers until activated through transcriptional or post-translational mechanisms in a tissue-restricted and signal-specific manner. The large number of BH3-only proteins, their unique subcellular localization, protein-interaction network and diverse modes of activation suggest specialization of their damage-sensing function, ensuring that the core apoptotic machinery is poised to receive input from a wide range of cellular stress signals. The apoptotic response initiated by the activation of BH3-only proteins ultimately culminates in allosteric activation of pro-apoptotic BAX and BAK, the gateway proteins to the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis. From activation of BH3-only proteins to oligomerization of BAX and BAK and mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization, an intricate network of interactions between the pro- and anti-apoptotic members of the BCL-2 family orchestrates the decision to undergo apoptosis. Beyond regulation of apoptosis, multiple BCL-2 proteins have recently emerged as active components of select homeostatic pathways carrying other cellular functions. This review focuses on BAD, which was the first BH3-only protein linked to proximal survival signals through phosphorylation by survival kinases. In addition to findings that delineated the physiological role of BAD in apoptosis and its dynamic regulation by phosphorylation, studies pointing to new roles for this protein in other physiological pathways, such as glucose metabolism, are highlighted. By executing its 'day' and 'night' jobs in metabolism and apoptosis, respectively, BAD helps coordinate mitochondrial fuel metabolism and the apoptotic machinery.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Caspases / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Glucokinase / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Proteins / physiology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Kinases / physiology
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • bcl-Associated Death Protein / chemistry
  • bcl-Associated Death Protein / deficiency
  • bcl-Associated Death Protein / genetics
  • bcl-Associated Death Protein / physiology*


  • BAD protein, human
  • Bad protein, mouse
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • bcl-Associated Death Protein
  • Protein Kinases
  • Glucokinase
  • Caspases
  • Glucose