Apoptosis and autophagy: BIM as a mediator of tumour cell death in response to oncogene-targeted therapeutics

FEBS J. 2009 Nov;276(21):6050-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2009.07329.x. Epub 2009 Sep 29.


The BCL-2 homology domain 3 (BH3)-only protein, B-cell lymphoma 2 interacting mediator of cell death (BIM) is a potent pro-apoptotic protein belonging to the B-cell lymphoma 2 protein family. In recent years, advances in basic biology have provided a clearer picture of how BIM kills cells and how BIM expression and activity are repressed by growth factor signalling pathways, especially the extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 and protein kinase B pathways. In tumour cells these oncogene-regulated pathways are used to counter the effects of BIM, thereby promoting tumour cell survival. In parallel, a new generation of targeted therapeutics has been developed, which show remarkable specificity and efficacy in tumour cells that are addicted to particular oncogenes. It is now apparent that the expression and activation of BIM is a common response to these new therapeutics. Indeed, BIM has emerged from this marriage of basic and applied biology as an important mediator of tumour cell death in response to such drugs. The induction of BIM alone may not be sufficient for significant tumour cell death, as BIM is more likely to act in concert with other BH3-only proteins, or other death pathways, when new targeted therapeutics are used in combination with traditional chemotherapy agents. Here we discuss recent advances in understanding BIM regulation and review the role of BIM as a mediator of tumour cell death in response to novel oncogene-targeted therapeutics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins / physiology*
  • Apoptosis*
  • Autophagy*
  • Bcl-2-Like Protein 11
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / drug therapy
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / genetics
  • Cell Survival
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Fusion Proteins, bcr-abl / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myelogenous, Chronic, BCR-ABL Positive / drug therapy
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Oncogenes*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / physiology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / genetics
  • Signal Transduction


  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • BCL2L11 protein, human
  • Bcl-2-Like Protein 11
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Fusion Proteins, bcr-abl
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases