Bax is an important determinant of chemosensitivity in pediatric tumor cell lines independent of Bcl-2 expression and p53 status

Oncol Res. 1998;10(5):235-44.


Susceptibility of a tumor cell to undergo chemotherapy-induced apoptosis appears to be dependent upon the balance of proapoptotic and survival factors that are expressed within any given cell. We have chosen to evaluate how expression of several of these proteins influences chemosensitivity of a panel of 10 pediatric tumor cell lines chosen from three tumor histiotypes: neuroblastoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, and pediatric glial tumors. The proteins evaluated were p53 and six members of the Bax/Bcl-2 family: three proapoptotic proteins (Bax, Bak, and Bcl-xS) and three survival factors (Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, and Mcl-1). We investigated whether there was any relationship between endogenous expression of these proteins and chemosensitivity (or resistance) to three chemotherapeutic agents that directly damage DNA (doxorubicin, actinomycin D, and topotecan) and a mitotic spindle poison (vincristine). Even though exogenous overexpression of wild-type p53 has been associated with a chemosensitive phenotype in several model systems we demonstrated no such relationship in these studies. In addition, expression levels of Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, Bcl-xS, Bak, or Mcl-1 did not correlate with sensitivity or resistance to the four drugs. However, there was a statistically significant correlation between endogenous levels of Bax protein and sensitivity to both doxorubicin and actinomycin D. We conclude that even though many proteins such as p53 and Bcl-2 have been shown to influence drug response when exogenously overexpressed in model systems, in unmodified cell lines endogenous protein levels may not generate the same results. We have demonstrated that endogenous Bax expression was the only protein found to be associated with chemosensitivity across the three different tumor histiotypes and propose that analysis of Bax may be a more useful prognostic indicator for tumor response to therapy than either p53 or Bcl-2.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Child
  • Glioma / chemistry
  • Glioma / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Neuroblastoma / chemistry
  • Neuroblastoma / drug therapy*
  • Nuclear Proteins*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / analysis*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / analysis*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2
  • Rabbits
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma / chemistry
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma / drug therapy*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / analysis*
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein


  • BAX protein, human
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • MDM2 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2