Previous studies have suggested that the BH3 domain of the proapoptotic Bcl-2 family member Noxa only interacts with the anti-apoptotic proteins Mcl-1 and A1 but not Bcl-2. In view of the similarity of the BH3 binding domains of these anti-apoptotic proteins as well as recent evidence that studies of isolated BH3 domains can potentially underestimate the binding between full-length Bcl-2 family members, we examined the interaction of full-length human Noxa with anti-apoptotic human Bcl-2 family members. Surface plasmon resonance using bacterially expressed proteins demonstrated that Noxa binds with mean dissociation constants (KD) of 3.4 nm for Mcl-1, 70 nm for Bcl-xL, and 250 nm for wild type human Bcl-2, demonstrating selectivity but not absolute specificity of Noxa for Mcl-1. Further analysis showed that the Noxa/Bcl-2 interaction reflected binding between the Noxa BH3 domain and the Bcl-2 BH3 binding groove. Analysis of proteins expressed in vivo demonstrated that Noxa and Bcl-2 can be pulled down together from a variety of cells. Moreover, when compared with wild type Bcl-2, certain lymphoma-derived Bcl-2 mutants bound Noxa up to 20-fold more tightly in vitro, pulled down more Noxa from cells, and protected cells against killing by transfected Noxa to a greater extent. When killing by bortezomib (an agent whose cytotoxicity in Jurkat T-cell leukemia cells is dependent on Noxa) was examined, apoptosis was enhanced by the Bcl-2/Bcl-xL antagonist ABT-737 or by Bcl-2 down-regulation and diminished by Bcl-2 overexpression. Collectively, these observations not only establish the ability of Noxa and Bcl-2 to interact but also identify Bcl-2 overexpression as a potential mechanism of bortezomib resistance
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