Akt and Bcl-xL promote growth factor-independent survival through distinct effects on mitochondrial physiology.


A comparison of Akt- and Bcl-x(L)-dependent cell survival was undertaken using interleukin-3-dependent FL5.12 cells. Expression of constitutively active Akt allows cells to survive for prolonged periods following growth factor withdrawal. This survival correlates with the expression level of activated Akt and is comparable in magnitude to the protection provided by the anti-apoptotic gene Bcl-x(L). Although both genes prevent cell death, Akt-protected cells can be distinguished from Bcl-x(L)-protected cells on the basis of increased glucose transporter expression, glycolytic activity, mitochondrial potential, and cell size. In addition, Akt-expressing cells require high levels of extracellular nutrients to support cell survival. In contrast, Bcl-x(L)-expressing cells deprived of interleukin-3 survive in a more vegetative state, in which the cells are smaller, have lower mitochondrial potential, reduced glycolytic activity, and are less dependent on extracellular nutrients. Thus, Akt and Bcl-x(L) suppress mitochondrion-initiated apoptosis by distinct mechanisms. Akt-mediated survival is dependent on promoting glycolysis and maintaining a physiologic mitochondrial potential. In contrast, Bcl-x(L) maintains mitochondrial integrity in the face of a reduced mitochondrial membrane potential, which develops as a result of the low glycolytic rate in growth factor-deprived cells.