Sabutoclax (BI97C1) and BI112D1, putative inhibitors of MCL-1, induce mitochondrial fragmentation either upstream of or independent of apoptosis

Neoplasia. 2013 May;15(5):568-78. doi: 10.1593/neo.13230.


Owing to the high levels of antiapoptotic B-cell lymphoma 2 (BCL-2) family members observed in several cancers, there has been a major effort to develop inhibitors of the BCL2-family as chemotherapeutic agents. Of the different members in the BCL-2 family, myeloid cell leukemia sequence 1 (MCL-1) is commonly amplified in human tumors and is associated with their relapse and chemoresistance. As a result, specific inhibitors of MCL-1 are being designed to treat resistant tumors. However, there is increasing evidence for other nonapoptotic roles of the BCL-2 family, ranging from ionic homeostasis and autophagy to the regulation of fission-fusion dynamics in subcellular organelles, including the endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria. In this study, we characterize the specificity of two novel putative MCL-1 inhibitors, BI97C1 (Sabutoclax) and BI112D1, in inducing apoptosis in a BAX/BAK-dependent manner and in an MCL-1-dependent system. In addition to their being proapoptotic, these inhibitors also cause enhanced mitochondrial fragmentation that accompanies a time-dependent loss of optic atrophy 1 (OPA1), suggesting an impairment of mitochondrial fusion. This mitochondrial fragmentation occurs independently of dynamin-related protein 1 (DRP1)-mediated fission activity and, unlike most apoptotic stimuli, occurs upstream of and/or independent of BAX, BAK, and other BH3-only proteins. Furthermore, this mitochondrial fragmentation occurred rapidly and preceded other hallmarks of apoptosis, including the loss in mitochondrial membrane potential and the release of cytochrome c. Although such mitochondrial fragmentation did not deplete total cellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) or alter other mitochondrial complexes, there was significant accumulation of reactive oxygen species.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Aniline Compounds / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Line
  • Dynamins
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases / metabolism
  • Gossypol / analogs & derivatives*
  • Gossypol / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Dynamics / drug effects
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism
  • Myeloid Cell Leukemia Sequence 1 Protein / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Myeloid Cell Leukemia Sequence 1 Protein / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Sulfonamides / pharmacology


  • 1,1',6,6',7,7'-hexahydroxy-3,3'-dimethyl-N5-(2-phenylpropyl)-N5'-(2-phenylpropyl)-2,2'-binaphthyl-5,5'-dicarboxamide
  • Aniline Compounds
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • BI112D1
  • MCL1 protein, human
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Myeloid Cell Leukemia Sequence 1 Protein
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Sulfonamides
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases
  • OPA1 protein, human
  • DNM1L protein, human
  • Dynamins
  • Gossypol
  • navitoclax