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Cancer Lett. 1999 Jun 1;140(1-2):201-7.

Correlation of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) with high Caspase 3-like activity in myelodysplastic syndromes.

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  • 1Rush Cancer Institute, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Chicago, IL 60612, USA. smundle@rush.edu


Increased intramedullary apoptotic death of hematopoietic cells is thought to contribute to the ineffective hematopoiesis in myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Furthermore, high amounts of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) have previously been correlated with apoptosis in MDS marrows. The present studies were undertaken to examine the status of two key downstream effectors of TNF alpha signaling, i.e. Caspase 1 and Caspase 3 enzymes, using a fluorometric assay in the bone marrow aspirate mononuclear cells (BMMNC) in relation to apoptotic DNA fragmentation detected by in situ end-labeling (ISEL) of DNA and with localization of TNF alpha in the corresponding biopsies from 14 MDS patients. Both Caspase 1 and 3 were detectable in freshly harvested BMMNC, albeit median Caspase 3 levels (47.5 units/mg protein) being almost 10 times higher than Caspase 1 (4.0 units/mg protein). Upon short-term culture for 4 h in a serum-supplemented medium in vitro a significant increase was seen in Caspase 3 activity (58.8 +/- 13.9 at 0 h vs. 177.8 +/- 55.2 units/mg protein at 4 h, n = 14, P = 0.017) and in percent cells labeled by ISEL (apoptotic index or AI%: 0.76% +/- 0.25% vs. 3.99% +/- 1.1%, n = 14, P = 0.004, respectively). Caspase 1 activity increased after 15 min in culture. Interestingly, TNF alpha levels measured by immunohistochemistry correlated with the net increase in Caspase 3 activity after 4 h (p = 0.517, n = 13, P = 0.07) and the starting levels of Caspase 1 at 0 h correlated with the Caspase 3 levels attained at 4 h (p = 0.593, n = 13, P = 0.033). Additionally when TNF alpha-positive bone marrows (8/14) were compared with the negative marrows (6/14) the Caspase 3 levels were significantly higher in the TNF alpha-positive marrows (189.6 +/- 66.2 vs. 25.0 +/- 14.6 units/mg protein, respectively, P = 0.043). The increase in AI%, though not statistically significant, was also higher in the TNF alpha-positive marrows. Finally in HL60 cells the effects of different Caspase inhibitors and pentoxifylline (PTX) (interferes with lipid signaling of cytokines) on TNF alpha-induced apoptosis were evaluated. TNF alpha treatment significantly increased AI% (P < 0.003) as compared to the untreated controls. A co-treatment with three Caspase inhibitors, zVAD.FMK (inhibitor of Caspases 1 and 3, 10 microM/l), Ac.YVAD.FMK (Caspase 1 inhibitor, 1 microM/l), Ac.DEVD.FMK (Caspase 3 inhibitor, 10 microM/l) as well as PTX (250 microM/l) significantly curtailed the AI% induced by TNF alpha. The present studies thus identify the downstream effectors of TNF alpha-inducible apoptosis in MDS and so also the suppressors of TNF alpha apoptotic signaling. These results may have significant clinical implications in the therapy of MDS in the future.

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