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Characterization of Bax-sigma, a cell death-inducing isoform of Bax.

Schmitt E., Paquet C., Beauchemin M., Dever-Bertrand J., Bertrand R.

The Ced-9/Bcl-like family of genes codes for proteins that have antiapoptotic and proapoptotic activity. Several Bax isoproteins have been detected by 2-D gel electrophoresis, and a novel human member, designated as Bax-sigma, has been identified and cloned from human cancer promyelocytic cells. Bax-sigma contains BH-3, BH-1, and BH-2 domains, putative alpha-5 and alpha-6 helices, and the carboxy-terminal hydrophobic transmembrane domain but lacks amino acids 159 to 171 compared to Bax-alpha. mRNA expression analysis by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and RNase protection assays have revealed that Bax-sigma is expressed in a variety of human cancer cell lines and normal tissues. To investigate the potential role of Bax-sigma in apoptosis, first its effects were compared to those of Bax-alpha by transient expression in human B lymphoma Namalwa cells. Both Bax-sigma and Bax-alpha promoted apoptosis, as detected by DNA fragmentation and morphological analysis by electron microscopy. The apoptosis induced by Bax-sigma and Bax-alpha was correlated with their expression, cytochrome c release, and caspase activation. In a yeast two-hybrid system, Bax-sigma interacted with several Ced-9/Bcl family members but had no affinity for the human Egl-1 homologs Bik and Bad and the Ced-4 homolog Apaf-1. In human cells, Bax-sigma function was counteracted by Bcl-xL overexpression, and co-immunoprecipitation experiments indicated that Bax-sigma was associated with Bcl-xL. Furthermore, Bax-sigma overexpression increased cell death induced by various concentrations of genotoxic agents with the most pronounced effect occurring at low camptothecin and vinblastine dose levels. Our results suggest that Bax-sigma, a novel variant of Bax, encodes a protein with a proapoptotic effect and mode of action similar to those of Bax-alpha.

Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 270:868-879(2000) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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