The Bcl-2 protein family members Bax and Bak play an important role in regulating apoptosis.1,2 But following their discovery in the 1990s, they did not take center stage because researchers didn't anticipate their role as "critical effectors of programmed cell death," says Craig Thompson, scientific director of the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania. But the limelight is now upon them as Thompson and his colleagues at the Abramson Institute, in collaboration with researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, have published a series of recent papers3-5 showing how Bax and Bak are "central and key in the pathway," and how "other Bcl-2 family members don't have an effect unless Bak and Bax are present," says Thompson.

"It is a terribly important step in the process," comments Douglas Green, an expert in the field...

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