Bcl-2 expression causes redistribution of glutathione to the nucleus

D. W. Voehringer, D. J. Mcconkey, T. J. Mcdonnell, S. Brisbay, R. E. Meyn

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253 Scopus citations


In this study we used HeLa cells transfected with a conditional Bcl-2 expression construct to study the effects of Bcl-2 on reduced glutathione (GSH) metabolism. Our previous work demonstrated that depletion of GSH by culturing cells in tissue culture medium lacking the amino acids cysteine and methionine, essential for GSH biosynthesis, caused cells overexpressing Bcl- 2 to become sensitized to apoptotic induction. Here we report that Bcl-2 also dramatically alters GSH compartmentalization. Cellular distribution of GSH, assayed by confocal microscopy, revealed that when Bcl-2 expression was suppressed GSH was uniformly distributed primarily in the cytosol, whereas overexpression of Bcl-2 led to a relocalization of GSH into the nucleus. Isolated nuclei readily accumulated radiolabeled GSH and maintained higher nuclear GSH concentration in direct relation to Bcl-2 nuclear protein levels. Moreover, exogenous GSH blocked apoptotic changes and caspase activity in isolated nuclei exposed to the pro-apoptotic protease granzyme B. Our results indicate that one of the functions of Bcl-2 is to promote sequestration of GSH into the nucleus, thereby altering nuclear redox and blocking caspase activity as well as other nuclear alterations characteristic of apoptosis. We speculate that this mechanism contributes to the suppression of apoptosis in cells with elevated Bcl-2 levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2956-2960
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 17 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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