Pro-apoptotic Bax is the major and Bak an auxiliary effector in cytokine deprivation-induced mast cell apoptosis

Cell Death Dis. 2010 May 13;1(5):e43. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2010.20.


The process of apoptosis in immune cells like mast cells is essential to regain homeostasis after an inflammatory response. The intrinsic pathway of apoptosis is ultimately controlled by the pro-apoptotic Bcl-2 family members Bax and Bak, which upon activation oligomerize to cause increased permeabilization of the mitochondria outer membrane leading to cell death. We examined the role of Bax and Bak in cytokine deprivation-induced apoptosis in mast cells using connective tissue-like mast cells and mucosal-like mast cells derived from bax(-/-), bak(-/-) and bax(-/-)bak(-/-) mice. Although both Bax and Bak were expressed at readily detectable protein levels, we found a major role for Bax in mediating mast cell apoptosis induced by cytokine deprivation. We analyzed cell viability by propidium iodide exclusion and flow cytometry after deprivation of vital cytokines for each mast cell population. Upon cytokine withdrawal, bak(-/-) mast cells died at a similar rate as wild type, whereas bax(-/-) and bax(-/-)bak(-/-) mast cells were partially or completely resistant to apoptosis, respectively. The total resistance seen in bax(-/-)bak(-/-) mast cells is comparable with mast cells deficient of both pro-apoptotic Bim and Puma or mast cells overexpressing anti-apoptotic Bcl-2. These results show that Bax has a predominant and Bak a minor role in cytokine deprivation-induced apoptosis in both connective tissue-like and mucosal-like mast cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis* / drug effects
  • Connective Tissue Cells / cytology
  • Cytokines / deficiency*
  • Cytokines / pharmacology
  • Cytoprotection / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Mast Cells / cytology*
  • Mast Cells / drug effects
  • Mast Cells / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mucous Membrane / cytology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Receptors, IgE / metabolism
  • bcl-2 Homologous Antagonist-Killer Protein / deficiency
  • bcl-2 Homologous Antagonist-Killer Protein / genetics
  • bcl-2 Homologous Antagonist-Killer Protein / metabolism*
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / deficiency
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / genetics
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / metabolism*


  • Cytokines
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, IgE
  • bcl-2 Homologous Antagonist-Killer Protein
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit