• Boiani M, Daniel C, Liu X, Hogarty MD, Marnett LJ. The stress protein BAG3 stabilizes Mcl-1 protein and promotes survival of cancer cells and resistance to antagonist ABT-737. The Journal of biological chemistry. 2013 Mar 8;288(10). 6980-90. PMID: 23341456 [PubMed]. PMCID: PMC3591608.


Members of the Bcl-2 family of proteins are important inhibitors of apoptosis in human cancer and are targets for novel anticancer agents such as the Bcl-2 antagonists, ABT-263 (Navitoclax), and its analog ABT-737. Unlike Bcl-2, Mcl-1 is not antagonized by ABT-263 or ABT-737 and is considered to be a major factor in resistance. Also, Mcl-1 exhibits differential regulation when compared with other Bcl-2 family members and is a target for anticancer drug discovery. Here, we demonstrate that BAG3, an Hsp70 co-chaperone, protects Mcl-1 from proteasomal degradation, thereby promoting its antiapoptotic activity. Using neuroblastoma cell lines, with a defined Bcl-2 family dependence, we found that BAG3 expression correlated with Mcl-1 dependence and ABT-737 resistance. RNA silencing of BAG3 led to a marked reduction in Mcl-1 protein levels and overcame ABT-737 resistance in Mcl-1-dependent cells. In ABT-737-resistant cells, Mcl-1 co-immunoprecipitated with BAG3, and loss of Mcl-1 after BAG3 silencing was prevented by proteasome inhibition. BAG3 and Mcl-1 were co-expressed in a panel of diverse cancer cell lines resistant to ABT-737. Silencing BAG3 reduced Mcl-1 protein levels and overcame ABT-737 resistance in several of the cell lines, including triple-negative breast cancer (MDA-MB231) and androgen receptor-negative prostate cancer (PC3) cells. These studies identify BAG3-mediated Mcl-1 stabilization as a potential target for cancer drug discovery.