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Apoptosis is the main mechanism by which multicellular organisms eliminate damaged or unwanted cells. To regulate this process, a balance between pro-survival and pro-apoptotic proteins is necessary in order to avoid impaired apoptosis, which is the cause of several pathologies, including cancer. Among the anti-apoptotic proteins, Bcl-xL exhibits a high conformational flexibility, whose regulation is strictly controlled by alternative splicing and post-transcriptional regulation mediated by transcription factors or microRNAs. It shows relevant functions in different forms of cancer, including melanoma. In melanoma, Bcl-xL contributes to both canonical roles, such as pro-survival, protection from apoptosis and induction of drug resistance, and non-canonical functions, including promotion of cell migration and invasion, and angiogenesis. Growing evidence indicates that Bcl-xL inhibition can be helpful for cancer patients, but at present, effective and safe therapies targeting Bcl-xL are lacking due to toxicity to platelets. In this review, we summarized findings describing the mechanisms of Bcl-xL regulation, and the role that Bcl-xL plays in melanoma pathobiology and response to therapy. From these findings, it emerged that even if Bcl-xL plays a crucial role in melanoma pathobiology, we need further studies aimed at evaluating the involvement of Bcl-xL and other members of the Bcl-2 family in the progression of melanoma and at identifying new non-toxic Bcl-xL inhibitors.


Anna Maria Lucianò, Ana B Pérez-Oliva, Victoriano Mulero, Donatella Del Bufalo. Bcl-xL: A Focus on Melanoma Pathobiology. International journal of molecular sciences. 2021 Mar 09;22(5)

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PMID: 33803452

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