Systemic overexpression of BCL-2 in the hematopoietic system protects transgenic mice from the consequences of lethal irradiation.
A new transgenic mouse has been generated in which the proto-oncogene BCL-2 is ubiquitously overexpressed. H2K-BCL-2 transgenic mice overexpress BCL-2 in all cells of the hematolymphoid system and have been used to assess the role of BCL-2 in protecting cells of the hematolymphoid system from the consequences of ionizing radiation. We have expanded on previous studies that have demonstrated protection for specific (lymphoid) cell populations and show that systemic overexpression of BCL-2 can protect the hematopoietic system as a whole, including hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), thus increasing the radioresistance of the animal. The increase in radioresistance in H2K-BCL-2 transgenic mice has two components: an increase in the radioresistance of individual cells and, to a lesser extent, an increase in the size of certain critically important cell populations, such as HSC. Bone marrow transplantation experiments show that the increased radioresistance of the transgenic animals is provided by cells of the hematopoietic system. Protection against the consequences of irradiation is not limited to the increased expression levels of BCL-2 in transgenic mice; levels of endogenous BCL-2 are higher in lymphocyte populations that survive irradiation in wild-type mice. We show that ubiquitous overexpression of BCL-2 in the hematopoietic system can be used to increase the resistance of animals to lethal challenges such as irradiation.