Role of Bcl-2 family proteins in apoptosis: apoptosomes or mitochondria?

Genes Cells. 1998 Nov;3(11):697-707. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2443.1998.00223.x.


Apoptosis is an essential physiological process for the selective elimination of cells, which is involved in a variety of biological events. The Bcl-2 family is the best characterized protein family involved in the regulation of apoptotic cell death, consisting of anti-apoptotic and pro-apoptotic members. The anti-apoptotic members of this family, such as Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL, prevent apoptosis either by sequestering proforms of death-driving cysteine proteases called caspases (a complex called the apoptosome) or by preventing the release of mitochondrial apoptogenic factors such as cytochrome c and AIF (apoptosis-inducing factor) into the cytoplasm. After entering the cytoplasm, cytochrome c and AIF directly activate caspases that cleave a set of cellular proteins to cause apoptotic changes. In contrast, pro-apoptotic members of this family, such as Bax and Bak, trigger the release of caspases from death antagonists via heterodimerization and also by inducing the release of mitochondrial apoptogenic factors into the cytoplasm via acting on mitochondrial permeability transition pore, thereby leading to caspase activation. Thus, the Bcl-2 family of proteins acts as a critical life-death decision point within the common pathway of apoptosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Organelles / physiology*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / physiology*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2