Getting away with murder: how does the BCL-2 family of proteins kill with immunity?

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2013 May;1285(1):59-79. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12045. Epub 2013 Mar 25.


The adult human body produces approximately one million white blood cells every second. However, only a small fraction of the cells will survive because the majority is eliminated through a genetically controlled form of cell death known as apoptosis. This review places into perspective recent studies pertaining to the BCL-2 family of proteins as critical regulators of the development and function of the immune system, with particular attention on B cell and T cell biology. Here we discuss how elegant murine model systems have revealed the major contributions of the BCL-2 family in establishing an effective immune system. Moreover, we highlight some key regulatory pathways that influence the expression, function, and stability of individual BCL-2 family members, and discuss their role in immunity. From lethal mechanisms to more gentle ones, the final portion of the review discusses the nonapoptotic functions of the BCL-2 family and how they pertain to the control of immunity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / chemistry
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2