The von Hippel-Lindau Gene Product Inhibits Renal Cell Apoptosis via Bcl-2-dependent Pathways

Prasad Devarajan, Maryely De Leon, Farahnaz Talasazan, Alan R. Schoenfeld, Eliot J. Davidowitz, Robert D. Burk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Previous studies have reported a protective role for the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) gene products against proapoptotic cellular stresses, but the mechanisms remain unclear. In this study, we examined the role of VHL in renal cells subjected to chemical hypoxia, using four VHL-negative and two VHL-positive cell lines. VHL-negative renal carcinoma cells underwent apoptosis following chemical hypoxia (short-term glucose deprivation and antimycin treatment), as evidenced by morphologic changes and internucleosomal DNA cleavage. Reintroduction of VHL expression prevented this apoptosis. VHL-negative cells displayed a significant (greater than 5-fold) activation of caspase 9 and release of cytochrome c into the cytosol following chemical hypoxia. In contrast, VHL-positive cells showed minimal caspase 9 activation, and absence of cytochrome c release under the same conditions. Caspase 8 was only minimally activated in both VHL-negative and -positive cells. In addition, VHL-positive cells displayed a striking up-regulation of Bcl-2 expression (5-fold) following chemical hypoxia. Antisense oligonucleotides to Bcl-2 significantly down-regulated Bcl-2 protein expression in VHL-positive cells and rendered them sensitive to apoptosis. Overexpression of Bcl-2 in VHL-negative cells conferred resistance to apoptosis. Our results suggest that VHL protects renal cells from apoptosis via Bcl-2-dependent pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40599-40605
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number44
StatePublished - Nov 2 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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