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J Biol Chem. 2000 Apr 14;275(15):10954-61.

Cellular non-heme iron content is a determinant of nitric oxide-mediated apoptosis, necrosis, and caspase inhibition.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biochemistry, College of Medicine, Kangwon National University, Chunchon, Kangwon-do 200-701, South Korea.


In this report, we tested the hypothesis that cellular content of non-heme iron determined whether cytotoxic levels of nitric oxide (NO) resulted in apoptosis versus necrosis. The consequences of NO exposure on cell viability were tested in RAW264.7 cells (a cell type with low non-heme iron levels) and hepatocytes (cells with high non-heme iron content). Whereas micromolar concentrations of the NO donor S-nitroso-N-acetyl-DL-penicillamine induced apoptosis in RAW264.7 cells, millimolar concentrations were required to induce necrosis in hepatocytes. Caspase-3 activation and cytochrome c release were evident in RAW264.7 cells, but only cytochrome c release was detectable in hepatocytes following high dose S-nitroso-N-acetyl-DL-penicillamine exposure. Pretreating RAW264.7 cells with FeSO(4) increased intracellular non-heme iron to levels similar to those measured in hepatocytes and delayed NO-induced cell death, which then occurred in the absence of caspase-3 activation. Iron loading was also associated with the formation of intracellular dinitrosyl-iron complexes (DNIC) upon NO exposure. Cytosolic preparations containing DNIC as well as pure preparations of DNIC suppressed caspase activity. These data suggest that non-heme iron content is a key factor in determining the consequence of NO on cell viability by regulating the chemical fate of NO.

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