Bz-423 superoxide signals B cell apoptosis via Mcl-1, Bak, and Bax

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Graphical abstractBz-423 is a pro-apoptotic 1,4-benzodiazepine with therapeutic properties in murine models of lupus demonstrating selectivity for autoreactive lymphocytes. Bz-423 modulates the F1F0-ATPase, inducing the formation of superoxide within the mitochondrial respiratory chain, which then functions as a second messenger initiating apoptosis. In order to understand some of the features that contribute to the increased sensitivity of lymphocytes, we report the signaling pathway engaged by Bz-423 in a Burkitt lymphoma cell line (Ramos). Following the generation of superoxide, Bz-423-induced apoptosis requires the activation of Bax and Bak to induce mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization and cytochrome c release. Knockdown of the BH3-only proteins Bad, Bim, Bik, and Puma inhibits Bz-423 apoptosis, suggesting that these proteins serve as upstream sensors of the oxidant stress induced by Bz-423. Treatment with Bz-423 results in superoxide-dependent Mcl-1 degradation, implicating this protein as the link between Bz-423-induced superoxide and Bax and Bak activation. In contrast to fibroblasts, B cell death induced by Bz-423 is independent of c-Jun N-terminal kinase. These results demonstrate that superoxide generated from the mitochondrial respiratory chain as a consequence of a respiratory transition can signal a specific apoptotic response that differs across cell types.

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