Apoptosis regulator, Bcl-2 protein, BH4 (IPR003093)

Short name: Bcl2_BH4

Domain relationships



Apoptosis, or programmed cell death (PCD), is a common and evolutionarily conserved property of all metazoans [PMID: 11341280]. In many biological processes, apoptosis is required to eliminate supernumerary or dangerous (such as pre-cancerous) cells and to promote normal development. Dysregulation of apoptosis can, therefore, contribute to the development of many major diseases including cancer, autoimmunity and neurodegenerative disorders. In most cases, proteins of the caspase family execute the genetic programme that leads to cell death.

Bcl-2 proteins are central regulators of caspase activation, and play a key role in cell death by regulating the integrity of the mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membranes [PMID: 12631689]. At least 20 Bcl-2 proteins have been reported in mammals, and several others have been identified in viruses. Bcl-2 family proteins fall roughly into three subtypes, which either promote cell survival (anti-apoptotic) or trigger cell death (pro-apoptotic). All members contain at least one of four conserved motifs, termed Bcl-2 Homology (BH) domains. Bcl-2 subfamily proteins, which contain at least BH1 and BH2, promote cell survival by inhibiting the adapters needed for the activation of caspases.

Pro-apoptotic members potentially exert their effects by displacing the adapters from the pro-survival proteins; these proteins belong either to the Bax subfamily, which contain BH1-BH3, or to the BH3 subfamily, which mostly only feature BH3 [PMID: 9735050]. Thus, the balance between antagonistic family members is believed to play a role in determining cell fate. Members of the wider Bcl-2 family, which also includes Bcl-x, Bcl-w and Mcl-1, are described by their similarity to Bcl-2 protein, a member of the pro-survival Bcl-2 subfamily [PMID: 9735050]. Full-length Bcl-2 proteins feature all four BH domains, seven alpha-helices, and a C-terminal hydrophobic motif that targets the protein to the outer mitochondrial membrane, ER and nuclear envelope.

Active cell suicide (apoptosis) is induced by events such as growth factor withdrawal and toxins. It is controlled by regulators, which have either an inhibitory effect on programmed cell death (anti-apoptotic) or block the protective effect of inhibitors (pro-apoptotic) [PMID: 15335822, PMID: 8918887]. Many viruses have found a way of countering defensive apoptosis by encoding their own anti-apoptosis genes preventing their target-cells from dying too soon.

All proteins belonging to the Bcl-2 family [PMID: 8910675] contain either a BH1, BH2, BH3, or BH4 domain. All anti-apoptotic proteins contain BH1 and BH2 domains, some of them contain an additional N-terminal BH4 domain (Bcl-2, Bcl-x(L), Bcl-w), which is never seen in pro-apoptotic proteins, except for Bcl-x(S). On the other hand, all pro-apoptotic proteins contain a BH3 domain (except for Bad) necessary for dimerisation with other proteins of Bcl-2 family and crucial for their killing activity, some of them also contain BH1 and BH2 domains (Bax, Bak). The BH3 domain is also present in some anti-apoptotic protein, such as Bcl-2 or Bcl-x(L). Proteins that are known to contain these domains include vertebrate Bcl-2 (alpha and beta isoforms) and Bcl-x (isoforms (Bcl-x(L) and Bcl-x(S)); mammalian proteins Bax and Bak; mouse protein Bid; Xenopus laevis proteins Xr1 and Xr11; human induced myeloid leukemia cell differentiation protein MCL1 and Caenorhabditis elegans protein ced-9.

GO terms

Biological Process

GO:0042981 regulation of apoptotic process

Molecular Function

No terms assigned in this category.

Cellular Component

No terms assigned in this category.

Contributing signatures

Signatures from InterPro member databases are used to construct an entry.
PROSITE profiles