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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2008 Feb 15;227(1):84-96. Epub 2007 Oct 11.

Central role of mitochondria and p53 in PUVA-induced apoptosis in human keratinocytes cell line NCTC-2544.

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  • 1Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Padova, Via Marzolo 5, 35131 Padova, Italy.


Despite strong evidence concerning the high efficiency of PUVA therapy (psoralen plus UVA light), its mechanism of action has not yet been fully elucidated. In this study, we have evaluated in a cell line of human keratinocytes (NCTC-2544) the effects of two linear psoralen derivatives, 8-methoxypsoralen (8-MOP) and 5-methoxypsoralen (5-MOP), that are widely used in PUVA therapy and two angular derivatives, Angelicin (ANG) and 4,6,4'-trymetyl angelicin (TMA). All derivatives photoinduce cellular death, TMA being the most active compound. The cell cycle analysis showed that the four derivatives induce, 24 h after irradiation, a cell cycle arrest in G1 phase later followed by massive apoptosis. The G1 arrest is correlated to an increase in the expression of p21(Waf1/Cip1), a protein associated with the cell cycle block and apoptosis. Furthermore, treatment of NCTC-2544 resulted in p53 activation by 5-MOP, 8-MOP, and ANG but not TMA and its phosphorylation at serine-15. The levels of p21(Waf1/Cip1) paralleled p53 protein staining pattern suggesting that p53 activation correlated with p21(Waf1/Cip1) induction. Simultaneous to p53 activation, psoralens induced mitochondrial depolarization, cytochrome c release, mitochondrial production of reactive oxygen species, as well as caspase-3 and -9 activation. Thus these results strongly indicate the necessity of p53 activation and the induction of the apoptotic machinery downstream of mitochondria.

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