The mystery of BCL2 family: Bcl-2 proteins and apoptosis: an update

Arch Toxicol. 2015 Mar;89(3):289-317. doi: 10.1007/s00204-014-1448-7. Epub 2015 Jan 25.


Apoptosis is a critically important biological process that plays an essential role in cell fate and homeostasis. An important component of the apoptotic pathway is the family of proteins commonly known as the B cell lymphoma-2 (Bcl-2). The primary role of Bcl-2 family members is the regulation of apoptosis. Although the structure of Bcl-2 family of proteins was reported nearly 10 years ago, however, it still surprises us with its structural and functional complexity and diversity. A number of studies have demonstrated that Bcl-2 family influences many other cellular processes beyond apoptosis which are generally independent of the regulation of apoptosis, suggesting additional roles for Bcl-2. The disruption of the regulation of apoptosis is a causative event in many diseases. Since the Bcl-2 family of proteins is the key regulator of apoptosis, the abnormalities in its function have been implicated in many diseases including cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, ischemia and autoimmune diseases. In the past few years, our understanding of the mechanism of action of Bcl-2 family of proteins and its implications in various pathological conditions has enhanced significantly. The focus of this review is to summarize the current knowledge on the structure and function of Bcl-2 family of proteins in apoptotic cellular processes. A number of drugs have been developed in the past few years that target different Bcl-2 members. The role of Bcl-2 proteins in the pathogenesis of various diseases and their pharmacological significance as effective molecular therapeutic targets is also discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy
  • Autoimmune Diseases / metabolism
  • Autoimmune Diseases / pathology
  • Binding Sites
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Mitochondrial Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / drug therapy
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / pathology
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry
  • Protein Binding
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / chemistry
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Ligands
  • Mitochondrial Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2