Bim, the Bcl-2 interacting mediator of cell death, is a member of the BH3-only family of pro-apoptotic proteins. Recent studies have demonstrated that the apoptotic activity of Bim can be regulated through a post-translational mechanism whereby ERK phosphorylation serves as a signal for Bim ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. In this report, we investigated the signaling pathways leading to Bim phosphorylation in Ba/F3 cells, an interleukin-3 (IL-3)-dependent B-cell line. IL-3 stimulation induced phosphorylation of Bim(EL), one of the predominant isoforms of Bim expressed in cells, at multiple sites, as evidenced by the formation of at least three to four bands by Western blotting that were sensitive to phosphatase digestion. The appearance of multiple, phosphorylated species of Bim(EL) correlated with Akt, and not ERK, activation. The PI3K inhibitor, LY294002, blocked IL-3-stimulated Akt activity and partially blocked Bim(EL) phosphorylation. In vitro kinase assays showed that recombinant Akt could directly phosphorylate a GST-Bim(EL) fusion protein and identified the Akt phosphorylation site in the Bim(EL) domain as Ser(87). Further, we demonstrated that cytokine stimulation promotes Bim(EL) binding to 14-3-3 proteins. Finally, we show that mutation of Ser(87) dramatically increases the apoptotic potency of Bim(EL). We propose that Ser(87) of Bim(EL) is an important regulatory site that is targeted by Akt to attenuate the pro-apoptotic function of Bim(EL), thereby promoting cell survival.
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