The Bcl-2 protein family: arbiters of cell survival

Science. 1998 Aug 28;281(5381):1322-6. doi: 10.1126/science.281.5381.1322.


Bcl-2 and related cytoplasmic proteins are key regulators of apoptosis, the cell suicide program critical for development, tissue homeostasis, and protection against pathogens. Those most similar to Bcl-2 promote cell survival by inhibiting adapters needed for activation of the proteases (caspases) that dismantle the cell. More distant relatives instead promote apoptosis, apparently through mechanisms that include displacing the adapters from the pro-survival proteins. Thus, for many but not all apoptotic signals, the balance between these competing activities determines cell fate. Bcl-2 family members are essential for maintenance of major organ systems, and mutations affecting them are implicated in cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Survival*
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Genes, bcl-2
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Organelles / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / chemistry
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / physiology*


  • Cytokines
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Cysteine Endopeptidases