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Bcl-2 is an inner mitochondrial membrane protein that blocks programmed cell death


THE t(14; 18) chromosomal translocation of human follicular B-cell lymphoma juxtaposes the bcl-2 gene with the immunoglobulin heavy chain locus1–3. The bcl-2 immunoglobulin fusion gene is markedly deregulated resulting in inappropriately elevated levels of bcl-2 RNA and protein4–7. Transgenic mice bearing a bcl-2 immunoglobulin minigene demonstrate a polyclonal expansion of resting yet responsive IgM–IgD B cells which display prolonged cell survival but no increase in cell cycling8,9. Moreover, deregulated bcl-2 extends the survival of certain haematopoietic cell lines following growth-factor deprivation10,11. By using immunolocalization studies we now demonstrate that Bcl-2 is an integral inner mitochondrial membrane protein of relative molecular mass 25,000 (25k). Overexpression of Bcl-2 blocks the apoptotic death of a pro-B-lymphocyte cell line. Thus, Bcl-2 is unique among proto-oncogenes, being localized to mitochondria and interfering with programmed cell death independent of promoting cell division.

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Hockenbery, D., Nuñez, G., Milliman, C. et al. Bcl-2 is an inner mitochondrial membrane protein that blocks programmed cell death. Nature 348, 334–336 (1990).

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