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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Caspase-3 Activity and Carbonyl Cyanide m-Chlorophenylhydrazone-induced Apoptosis in HL-60 cells

Petr Mlejnek

The role of caspase proteases in carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP)-induced apoptosis of human promyelocytic HL-60 cells was examined. Treatment of HL-60 cells with micromolar concentrations of CCCP resulted in cell death, with typical apoptotic features such as chromatin condensation, formation of apoptotic bodies, nucleosomal fragmentation of DNA and a distinct increase in caspase-3 activity. The results, however, indicated that full caspase-3 inhibition by the selective inhibitor N-benzyloxycarbonyl-Asp-Glu-Val-Asp fluoromethyl ketone (Z-DEVD-FMK) did not prevent cell death, nor did it affect the manifestation of apoptotic hallmarks, including apoptotic bodies formation and nucleosomal DNA fragmentation. The only distinct effect that Z-DEVD-FMK exhibited was to retard the disruption of the plasma membrane. We therefore assume that caspase-3 activity itself is not essential for the manifestation of apoptotic features mentioned above. Similarly, the pan-specific caspase inhibitor N-benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp fluoromethyl ketone (Z-VAD-FMK) did not prevent cell death. On the contrary, Z-VAD-FMK completely prevented DNA cleavage and apoptotic body formation, but it failed to completely counteract chromatin condensation. Thus, in the presence of Z-VAD-FMK, application of CCCP concentrations that otherwise induced apoptosis, resulted in the appearance of two morphologically different groups of dead cells with intact DNA. The first group included cells with necrotic-like nuclear morphology, and therefore could be taken as being “truly” necrotic in nature, because they had intact DNA. The cells of the second group formed small single-spherical nuclei with condensed chromatin. In spite of having intact DNA, they could not be taken as “truly” necrotic cells. It is evident that in the experimental system, caspase proteases play an essential role in the formation of apoptotic bodies and in the cleavage of nucleosomal DNA, but not in the condensation of chromatin. Therefore, it is likely that the choice between cell death modalities is not solely a matter of the aspase proteases present.