Defining specificity and on-target activity of BH3-mimetics using engineered B-ALL cell lines

Oncotarget. 2016 Mar 8;7(10):11500-11. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.7204.


One of the hallmarks of cancer is a resistance to the induction of programmed cell death that is mediated by selection of cells with elevated expression of anti-apoptotic members of the BCL-2 family. To counter this resistance, new therapeutic agents known as BH3-mimetic small molecules are in development with the goal of antagonizing the function of anti-apoptotic molecules and promoting the induction of apoptosis. To facilitate the testing and modeling of BH3-mimetic agents, we have developed a powerful system for evaluation and screening of agents both in culture and in immune competent animal models by engineering mouse leukemic cells and re-programming them to be dependent on exogenously expressed human anti-apoptotic BCL-2 family members. Here we demonstrate that this panel of cell lines can determine the specificity of BH3-mimetics to individual anti-apoptotic BCL-2 family members (BCL-2, BCL-XL, BCL-W, BFL-1, and MCL-1), demonstrate whether cell death is due to the induction of apoptosis (BAX and BAK-dependent), and faithfully assess the efficacy of BH3-mimetic small molecules in pre-clinical mouse models. These cells represent a robust and valuable pre-clinical screening tool for validating the efficacy, selectivity, and on-target action of BH3-mimetic agents.

Keywords: BCL-2; BH3 mimetics; apoptosis; cancer model; drug development.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Biomimetic Materials / chemistry
  • Biomimetic Materials / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Peptide Fragments / chemistry
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism*
  • Precursor B-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / drug therapy*
  • Precursor B-Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / chemistry
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology*
  • Transfection
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Bax protein (53-86)
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Small Molecule Libraries