Bim: a novel member of the Bcl-2 family that promotes apoptosis
Certain members of the Bcl-2 family inhibit apoptosis while others facilitate this physiological process of cell death. An expression screen for proteins that bind to Bcl-2 yielded a small novel protein, denoted Bim, whose only similarity to any known protein is the short (nine amino acid) BH3 motif shared by most Bcl-2 homologues. Bim provokes apoptosis, and the BH3 region is required for Bcl-2 binding and for most of its cytotoxicity. Like Bcl-2, Bim possesses a hydrophobic C-terminus and localizes to intracytoplasmic membranes. Three Bim isoforms, probably generated by alternative splicing, all induce apoptosis, the shortest being the most potent. Wild-type Bcl-2 associates with Bim in vivo and modulates its death function, whereas Bcl-2 mutants that lack survival function do neither. Significantly, Bcl-xL and Bcl-w, the two closest homologues of Bcl-2, also bind to Bim and inhibit its activity, but more distant viral homologues, adenovirus E1B19K and Epstein–Barr virus BHRF-1, can do neither. Hence, Bim appears to act as a 'death ligand' which can only neutralize certain members of the pro-survival Bcl-2 sub-family.