Bcl-xL acts as an inhibitor of IP3R channels, thereby antagonizing Ca2+-driven apoptosis

Nicolas Rosa, Hristina Ivanova, Larry E. Wagner, Justin Kale, Rita La Rovere, Kirsten Welkenhuyzen, Nikolaos Louros, Spyridoula Karamanou, Victoria Shabardina, Irma Lemmens, Elien Vandermarliere, Kozo Hamada, Hideaki Ando, Frederic Rousseau, Joost Schymkowitz, Jan Tavernier, Katsuhiko Mikoshiba, Anastassios Economou, David W. Andrews, Jan B. ParysDavid I. Yule, Geert Bultynck*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Anti-apoptotic Bcl-2-family members not only act at mitochondria but also at the endoplasmic reticulum, where they impact Ca2+ dynamics by controlling IP3 receptor (IP3R) function. Current models propose distinct roles for Bcl-2 vs. Bcl-xL, with Bcl-2 inhibiting IP3Rs and preventing pro-apoptotic Ca2+ release and Bcl-xL sensitizing IP3Rs to low [IP3] and promoting pro-survival Ca2+ oscillations. We here demonstrate that Bcl-xL too inhibits IP3R-mediated Ca2+ release by interacting with the same IP3R regions as Bcl-2. Via in silico superposition, we previously found that the residue K87 of Bcl-xL spatially resembled K17 of Bcl-2, a residue critical for Bcl-2’s IP3R-inhibitory properties. Mutagenesis of K87 in Bcl-xL impaired its binding to IP3R and abrogated Bcl-xL’s inhibitory effect on IP3Rs. Single-channel recordings demonstrate that purified Bcl-xL, but not Bcl-xLK87D, suppressed IP3R single-channel openings stimulated by sub-maximal and threshold [IP3]. Moreover, we demonstrate that Bcl-xL-mediated inhibition of IP3Rs contributes to its anti-apoptotic properties against Ca2+-driven apoptosis. Staurosporine (STS) elicits long-lasting Ca2+ elevations in wild-type but not in IP3R-knockout HeLa cells, sensitizing the former to STS treatment. Overexpression of Bcl-xL in wild-type HeLa cells suppressed STS-induced Ca2+ signals and cell death, while Bcl-xLK87D was much less effective in doing so. In the absence of IP3Rs, Bcl-xL and Bcl-xLK87D were equally effective in suppressing STS-induced cell death. Finally, we demonstrate that endogenous Bcl-xL also suppress IP3R activity in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells, whereby Bcl-xL knockdown augmented IP3R-mediated Ca2+ release and increased the sensitivity towards STS, without altering the ER Ca2+ content. Hence, this study challenges the current paradigm of divergent functions for Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL in Ca2+-signaling modulation and reveals that, similarly to Bcl-2, Bcl-xL inhibits IP3R-mediated Ca2+ release and IP3R-driven cell death. Our work further underpins that IP3R inhibition is an integral part of Bcl-xL’s anti-apoptotic function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)788-805
Number of pages18
JournalCell Death and Differentiation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


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