Experimental cell research

Mcl-1 antagonism is a potential therapeutic strategy in a subset of solid cancers.

PMID 25486070


Cancer cell survival is frequently dependent on the elevated levels of members of the Bcl-2 family of prosurvival proteins that bind to and inactivate BH3-domain pro-apoptotic cellular proteins. Small molecules that inhibit the protein-protein interactions between prosurvival and proapoptotic Bcl-2 family members (so-called "BH3 mimetics") have a potential therapeutic value, as indicated by clinical findings obtained with ABT-263 (navitoclax), a Bcl-2/Bcl-xL antagonist, and more recently with GDC-0199/ABT-199, a more selective antagonist of Bcl-2. Here, we report study results of the functional role of the prosurvival protein Mcl-1 against a panel of solid cancer cell lines representative of different tumor types. We observed silencing of Mcl-1 expression by small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) significantly reduced viability and induced apoptosis in almost 30% of cell lines tested, including lung and breast adenocarcinoma, as well as glioblastoma derived lines. Most importantly, we provide a mechanistic basis for this sensitivity by showing antagonism of Mcl-1 function with specific BH3 peptides against isolated mitochondria induces Bak oligomerization and cytochrome c release, therefore demonstrating that mitochondria from Mcl-1-sensitive cells depend on Mcl-1 for their integrity and that antagonizing Mcl-1 function is sufficient to induce apoptosis. Thus, our results lend further support for considering Mcl-1 as a therapeutic target in a number of solid cancers and support the rationale for development of small molecule BH3-mimetics antagonists of this protein.

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