Arsenic trioxide-induced neuroblastoma cell death is accompanied by proteolytic activation of nuclear Bax.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Arsenic trioxide (As2O3) is toxic to multidrug-resistant neuroblastoma cells in vivo and in vitro. In neuroblastoma, As2O3 does not exert its cell death-promoting effects via a classical apoptotic pathway. A death mechanism involving proteolytic cleavage of Bax to a p18 form seems to be of importance, because inhibition of Bax cleavage coincides with diminished cell death. As existing models of cell death implicate Bax in the intrinsic apoptotic pathway, triggering death after Bax translocation to the mitochondria, we investigated the cellular localization of p18 Bax by subcellular fractionation. After As2O3 treatment, p18 Bax was only present in nuclei-enriched, mitochondria-depleted fractions. Cytoplasmic p21 Bax levels decreased, whereas total (p21 and p18) nuclear Bax increased. Overexpressed p21 Bax localized to the cytoplasm and nuclei, whereas overexpressed p18 Bax localized to extra-nuclear structures only. The inability of overexpressed p18 Bax to locate to the nucleus, and the As2O3-induced reduction of p21 Bax in the cytosol, suggest an As2O3-induced mechanism where p18 Bax gets cleaved and 'trapped' in the nucleus. This model is strengthened by the observation that calpain, the protease responsible for p18 Bax generation, is present in the nuclei, and that nuclear calpain is induced by increasing As2O3 and Ca2+ levels.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cancer and Oncology


  • Arsenic trioxide, neuroblastoma, nuclear localization, Bax, calpain
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6150-6159
Issue number42
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Molecular Medicine (013031200), Tumour Cell Biology (013017530)