Bim and the Pro-Survival Bcl-2 Proteins: Opposites Attract, ERK Repels
Volume 6, Issue 18
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September 15, 2007
Pages 2236 - 2240http://dx.doi.org/10.4161/cc.6.18.4728
Authors: Katherine E. Ewings, Ceri M. Wiggins and Simon J. Cook View affiliations
Bim (Bcl-2-interacting mediator of cell death) is a BH3-only protein (BOP), a pro-apoptotic member of the Bcl-2 protein family. The Bim mRNA undergoes alternate splicing to give rise to the short, long and extra long protein variants (BimS, BimL and BimEL). These proteins have distinct potency in promoting death and distinct modes of regulation conferred by their interaction with other proteins. Quite how Bim and other BOPs promote apoptosis has been the subject of some debate. Bim was isolated by its interaction with pro-survival proteins such as Bcl-2 and it has been suggested that this is key to the ability of Bim to induce apoptosis. However, an alternative model argues that some forms of Bim can bind directly to the pro-apoptotic Bax and Bak proteins to initiate apoptosis. A new study may finally put this debate to rest as it provides strong evidence to suggest that Bim and other BOPs act primarily by binding to pro-survival Bcl-2 proteins, thereby releasing Bax or Bak proteins to promote apoptosis. The importance of the interaction between Bim and the pro-survival Bcl-2 proteins is underlined by our demonstration that it is regulated by ERK1/2-dependent phosphorylation of BimEL. ERK1/2-dependent dissociation of BimEL from pro-survival proteins is the first step in a process by which the pro-survival ERK1/2 pathway promotes the destruction of this most abundant Bim splice variant. In this review we outline the significance of these new studies to our understanding of how BOPs such as Bim initiate apoptosis and how this process is regulated by growth factor-dependent signalling pathways.