Background: Vascular endothelium undergoes apoptosis when exposed to reactive oxygen species (ROS), including hydrogen peroxide and superoxide radicals. ROS are believed to be the cause of damage to small vessels during ischemia-reperfusion injury and of arterial damage during atherosclerosis. Hydrogen peroxide-induced apoptosis is mediated through the inhibition of Bcl-xl activity and caspase-3 and caspase-9 activation. The BH4 domain of the Bcl-2 family members is responsible for their antiapoptotic activity. The BH4 domains of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xl inhibit cytochrome c release and the loss of mitochondrial membrane potential. Methods and Results: The purpose of this project was to study the antiapoptotic effect of cell-permeant derivative of Bcl-2 (BH4 peptide) on endothelial cells exposed to stress conditions. BH4 peptide was conjugated to the cell-permeable peptide TAT and was applied to endothelial cells under conditions of serum starvation and hydrogen peroxide treatment. TAT-BH4 reduced caspase-3 activity and prevented apoptotic cell death. Conclusion: Our results indicate that TAT-BH4 peptide can protect endothelial cells from ROS-induced apoptosis.

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