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Biochem Pharmacol. 2000 Jun 1;59(11):1477-87.

Modulation by alpha- and gamma-tocopherol and oxidized low-density lipoprotein of apoptotic signaling in human coronary smooth muscle cells.

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Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Naples, Naples, Italy.


Apoptosis may play an important role in atherogenesis. Oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL) promotes apoptosis in the arterial wall in addition to several other proatherogenic effects. Tocopherol supplements have been suggested to protect against coronary heart disease (CHD) in epidemiological studies. The effects of oxLDL and alpha- and gamma-tocopherol on apoptotic signaling pathways are poorly understood. Thus, the goal of the study was to investigate these pathways in the presence of copper-oxidized LDL and tocopherols in human coronary smooth muscle cells (SMC). We showed that oxLDL-mediated apoptosis, assessed by DNA fragmentation, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT)-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay, and caspase activation stimulated several transcription factors and proapoptotic dynamic movements of the Bcl-2 family proteins through the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and Jun kinase pathways. alpha-Tocopherol and gamma-tocopherol significantly reduced these molecular events and cell death effectors caspase-3 and -8. Under our experimental conditions, alpha-tocopherol was significantly more effective than gamma-tocopherol, and oxLDL-mediated apoptosis increased c-Jun, cyclic AMP-responsive element-binding, Ets-like element kinase-dependent 7, and activating transcription factor-2 proteins as well as nuclear activity of the activated protein-1 complex in human coronary SMC. Moreover, our results demonstrate that tocopherols may exert their antiatherogenic effects at least in part via reduction of the MAPK and JunK cascade together with a protective profile of apoptotic genes of the Bcl-2 family. These data are consistent with the beneficial effects of tocopherols on atherogenesis seen in experimental studies and on CHD in epidemiological surveys.

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