Eltrombopag directly inhibits BAX and prevents cell death

Adam Z. Spitz, Emmanouil Zacharioudakis, Denis E. Reyna, Thomas P. Garner, Evripidis Gavathiotis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The BCL-2 family protein BAX has essential activity in mitochondrial regulation of cell death. While BAX activity ensures tissue homeostasis, when dysregulated it contributes to aberrant cell death in several diseases. During cellular stress BAX is transformed from an inactive cytosolic conformation to a toxic mitochondrial oligomer. Although the BAX transformation process is not well understood, drugs that interfere with this process are useful research tools and potential therapeutics. Here, we show that Eltrombopag, an FDA-approved drug, is a direct inhibitor of BAX. Eltrombopag binds the BAX trigger site distinctly from BAX activators, preventing them from triggering BAX conformational transformation and simultaneously promoting stabilization of the inactive BAX structure. Accordingly, Eltrombopag is capable of inhibiting BAX-mediated apoptosis induced by cytotoxic stimuli. Our data demonstrate structure-function insights into a mechanism of BAX inhibition and reveal a mechanism for Eltrombopag that may expand its use in diseases of uncontrolled cell death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1134
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • General
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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