Bcl-2 is a critical mediator of intestinal transformation

Nat Commun. 2016 Mar 9:7:10916. doi: 10.1038/ncomms10916.


Intestinal tumour formation is generally thought to occur following mutational events in the stem cell pool. However, active NF-κB signalling additionally facilitates malignant transformation of differentiated cells. We hypothesized that genes shared between NF-κB and intestinal stem cell (ISCs) signatures might identify common pathways that are required for malignant growth. Here, we find that the NF-κB target Bcl-2, an anti-apoptotic gene, is specifically expressed in ISCs in both mice and humans. Bcl-2 is dispensable in homeostasis and, although involved in protecting ISCs from radiation-induced damage, it is non-essential in tissue regeneration. Bcl-2 is upregulated in adenomas, and its loss or inhibition impairs outgrowth of oncogenic clones, because Bcl-2 alleviates apoptotic priming in epithelial cells following Apc loss. Furthermore, Bcl-2 expression in differentiated epithelial cells renders these cells amenable to clonogenic outgrowth. Collectively, our results indicate that Bcl-2 is required for efficient intestinal transformation following Apc-loss and constitutes a potential chemoprevention target.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Intestines / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism*
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • NF-kappa B
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2