Tissues with the highest rates of proliferation typically exhibit the highest frequencies of apoptosis, but the mechanisms that coordinate these processes are largely unknown. The homeodomain protein Gax is down-regulated when quiescent cells are stimulated to proliferate, and constitutive Gax expression inhibits cell proliferation in a p21(WAF/CIP)-dependent manner. To understand how mitogen-induced proliferation influences the apoptotic process, we investigated the effects of deregulated Gax expression on cell viability. Forced Gax expression induced apoptosis in mitogen-activated cultures, but quiescent cultures were resistant to cell death. Though mitogen activation was required for apoptosis, neither the cdk inhibitor p21(WAF/CIP) nor the tumor suppressor p53 was required for Gax-induced cell death. Arrest in G1 or S phases of the cell cycle with chemical inhibitors also did not affect apoptosis, further suggesting that Gax-mediated cell death is independent of cell cycle activity. Forced Gax expression led to Bcl-2 down-regulation and Bax up-regulation in mitogen-activated, but not quiescent cultures. Mouse embryonic fibroblasts homozygous null for the Bax gene were refractive to Gax-induced apoptosis, demonstrating the functional significance of this regulation. These data suggest that the homeostatic balance between cell growth and death can be controlled by mitogen-dependent pathways that circumvent the cell cycle to alter Bcl-2 family protein expression.
- Cell cycle
- Homeobox gene
- Mitogen-regulated transcription factor
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)