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J Biol Chem. 2007 Jan 26;282(4):2144-55. Epub 2006 Nov 13.

Caspase inhibition blocks cell death and results in cell cycle arrest in cytokine-deprived hematopoietic cells.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, The University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille P. Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA.


Cytokine deprivation has been classically used to study molecular processes of apoptosis. Following interleukin (IL)-3 withdrawal in FL5.12 cells, Bax undergoes a conformational change that results in its mitochondria targeting, cytochrome c release, activation of caspase-9, and apoptosis. Cells overexpressing Casp9DN (dominant negative caspase-9) or treated with the caspase inhibitor Q-VD-OPh increased viability but failed to increase clonogenic survival. We find that caspase-inhibited cells had a significant fraction of viable cells (herein termed "rescued" cells) that failed to initiate cell division after IL-3 add back. The "rescued" cells had reduced mitochondrial potential, stained for active Bax, and had reduced staining with dihydroethidium, an agent sensitive to superoxide levels. Readdition of IL-3 after deprivation demonstrated that Bax activation was reversed, whereas altered 5,5',6,6'-tetrachloro-1,1',3,3'-tetraethylbenzimidazolylcarbocyanine iodide and dihydroethidium staining persisted for days. Furthermore, the "rescued" cells were resistant to rotenone, an inhibitor of mitochondrial respiration. The cells were highly sensitive to 2-deoxyglucose, an inhibitor of glycolysis and proposed anti-cancer agent. We conclude that the inhibition of caspase-9 allows cells to retain viability, but cells have prolonged mitochondrial dysfunction and enter a unique nondividing state that shares some properties with malignant cells.

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