Hydrogen peroxide is a key mediator of oxidative stress known to be important in various cellular processes, including apoptosis. B-cell lymphoma-2 (Bcl-2) is an oxidative stress-responsive protein and a key regulator of apoptosis; however, the underlying mechanisms of oxidative regulation of Bcl-2 are not well understood. The present study investigates the direct effect of H2O2 on Bcl-2 cysteine oxidation as a potential mechanism of apoptosis regulation. Exposure of human lung epithelial cells to H 2O2 induces apoptosis concomitant with cysteine oxidation and down-regulation of Bcl-2. Inhibition of Bcl-2 oxidation by antioxidants or by site-directed mutagenesis of Bcl-2 at Cys-158 and Cys-229 abrogates the effects of H2O2 on Bcl-2 and apoptosis. Immunoprecipitation and confocal microscopic studies show that Bcl-2 interacts with mitogen-activated protein kinase (extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 [ERK1/2]) to suppress apoptosis and that this interaction is modulated by cysteine oxidation of Bcl-2. The H2O2-induced Bcl-2 cysteine oxidation interferes with Bcl-2 and ERK1/2 interaction. Mutation of the cysteine residues inhibits the disruption of Bcl-2-ERK complex, as well as the induction of apoptosis by H2O2. Taken together, these results demonstrate the critical role of Bcl-2 cysteine oxidation in the regulation of apoptosis through ERK signaling. This new finding reveals crucial redox regulatory mechanisms that control the antiapoptotic function of Bcl-2.
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