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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2000 Jun;278(6):C1116-25.

Pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate-induced apoptosis depends on cell type, density, and the presence of Cu(2+) and Zn(2+).

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Cardiovascular Research Unit, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.


Pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate (PDTC) has been found to induce or inhibit apoptosis in different cell types. Here we show that PDTC dose-dependently reduced the viability of rat smooth muscle cells (rSMC), human fibroblasts, and endothelial cells at low but not at high cell density. Endothelial cells were least sensitive, fibroblasts showed a medium sensitivity, and rSMC showed a high sensitivity to PDTC-mediated cell death. An early reduction in the mitochondrial membrane potential indicated a rapid onset of apoptosis in rSMC. Apoptosis was further confirmed by annexin V staining and DNA fragmentation analysis. Gel shift analysis demonstrated increased nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB activity in high-density rSMC compared with low-density cells. NF-kappaB has recently been shown to regulate the induction of anti-apoptotic proteins. Although PDTC is widely used as an inhibitor for NF-kappaB and a radical scavenger, our data show that PDTC rather enhanced NF-kappaB activity and, alone or in combination with menadione, induced oxygen radical generation. Notably, PDTC failed to reduce rSMC viability in medium without Cu(2+) or Zn(2+), and addition of Cu(2+) or Zn(2+) resulted in a dose-dependent increase in PDTC-induced cell death. Addition of both Cu(2+) and Zn(2+) showed synergistic effects. Our results indicate that the induction of apoptosis by PDTC requires Cu(2+) and Zn(2+) and is dependent on cell type and density. Such differential effects may have implications for studies of PDTC as an anti-atherosclerotic or immunomodulatory drug.

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