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Cancer Res. 2009 Apr 1;69(7):3095-104. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-3776. Epub 2009 Mar 10.

GD3, an overexpressed tumor-derived ganglioside, mediates the apoptosis of activated but not resting T cells.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio 44195, USA.


We previously elucidated an important role for gangliosides in renal cell carcinoma-mediated T lymphocyte apoptosis, although the mechanism by which they mediated lymphocyte death remained unclear. Here, we show that when added in purified form, GD3 is internalized by activated T cells, initiating a series of proapoptotic events, including the induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS), an enhancement of p53 and Bax accumulation, an increase in mitochondrial permeability, cytochrome c release, and the activation of caspase-9. GD3-induced apoptosis of activated T cells was dose dependent and inhibitable by pretreating the lymphocytes with N-acetylcysteine, cyclosporin A, or bongkrekic acid, emphasizing the essential role of ROS and mitochondrial permeability to the process. Ganglioside-induced T-cell killing was associated with the caspase-dependent degradation of nuclear factor-kappaB-inducible, antiapoptotic proteins, including RelA; this suggests that their loss is initiated only after the cascade is activated and that their disappearance amplifies but not triggers GD3 susceptibility. Resting T cells did not internalize appreciable levels of GD3 and did not undergo any of the proapoptotic changes that characterize activated T lymphocytes exposed to the ganglioside. RelA overexpression endows Jurkat cells with resistance to GD3-mediated apoptosis, verifying the role of the intact transcription factor in mediating protection from the ganglioside.

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