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Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jan;71(1):81-7.

Zinc protects against apoptosis of endothelial cells induced by linoleic acid and tumor necrosis factor alpha.

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Departments of Nutrition and Food Science and Surgery, University of Kentucky, Lexington, and the Molecular Biology Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Salzburg.



Zinc requirements of the vascular endothelium may be increased in inflammatory conditions, ie, atherosclerosis, in which apoptotic cell death is prevalent.


We hypothesized that zinc deficiency may potentiate disruption of endothelial cell integrity mediated by fatty acids and inflammatory cytokines by enhancing pathways that lead to apoptosis and up-regulation of caspase genes.


Endothelial cells were maintained in low-serum medium or grown in culture media containing selected chelators, ie, diethylenetriaminepentaacetate or N,N,N', N'-tetrakis(2-pyridylmethyl)-ethylenediamine (TPEN), with or without zinc supplementation. Subsequently, cells were treated with linoleic acid, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), or both. We studied the effect of zinc deficiency and supplementation on the induction of apoptosis by measuring caspase-3 activity, cell binding of annexin V, and DNA fragmentation.


Our results indicated that linoleic acid and TNF-alpha independently, but more markedly in concert, up-regulated caspase-3 activity and induced annexin V binding and DNA fragmentation. Zinc deficiency, especially when induced by TPEN, dramatically increased apoptotic cell death induced by cytokines and lipids compared with control cultures. Supplementation of low-serum- or chelator-treated endothelial cells with physiologic amounts of zinc caused a marked attenuation of apoptosis induced by linoleic acid and TNF-alpha. Morphologic changes of cells observed during zinc deficiency were prevented by zinc supplementation. Media supplementation with other divalent cations (eg, calcium and magnesium) did not mimic the protective role of zinc against apoptosis.


Our data indicate that zinc is vital to vascular endothelial cell integrity, possibly by regulating signaling events to inhibit apoptotic cell death.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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