Game and players: Mitochondrial apoptosis and the therapeutic potential of ursodeoxycholic acid

Susana Solá, Márcia M. Aranha, Clifford J. Steer, Cecília M.P. Rodrigues

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Apoptosis represents a universal and exquisitely efficient cellular suicide pathway essential for a variety of normal biological processes ranging from embryonic development to ageing. In fact, tissue homeostasis is dependent on the perfect balance between positive and negative signals that determines the decision between life and death. Therefore, any imbalance can result in a wide range of pathologic disorders associated with unwanted apoptosis or cell growth. During the apoptotic process, the molecular players interact closely with each other in ways relevant to accelerate or interrupt the cellular death process. In addition, two major pathways of apoptosis activation have been recognized as the "intrinsic" mitochondrial pathway and the "extrinsic" death receptor pathway. Although these pathways act independently to initiate apoptosis, a delicate balance and cross-talk between the extrinsic and intrinsic pathways is thought to occur in many cell types. Interestingly, we have shown that ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), an endogenous hydrophilic bile acid, is a potent inhibitor of apoptosis by either stabilizing the mitochondrial membrane or modulating the expression of specific upstream targets. Herein, we review the main effectors involved in the death machinery, describe how they interact to regulate apoptosis, and discuss the main pathways that control cell death and survival. Further, we address multiple interesting targets as well as the potential application of UDCA as a therapeutic modality for apoptosis-related disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-138
Number of pages16
JournalCurrent Issues in Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2007


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