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Am J Pathol. 2000 Jun;156(6):2111-21.

Cytochrome c-dependent activation of caspase-3 by tumor necrosis factor requires induction of the mitochondrial permeability transition.

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Department of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.


The killing of L929 mouse fibroblasts by tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) in the presence of 0.5 microg/ml actinomycin D (Act D) is prevented by inhibition of the mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT) with cyclosporin A (CyA) in combination with the phospholipase A(2) inhibitor aristolochic acid (ArA). The MPT is accompanied by the release of cytochrome c from the mitochondria, caspase-8 and caspase-3 activation in the cytosol, cleavage of the nuclear enzyme poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase (PARP), and DNA fragmentation, all of which were inhibited by CyA plus ArA. The caspase-3 inhibitor z-Asp-Glu-Val-aspartic acid fluoromethyl-ketone (Z-DEVD-FMK) did not prevent the loss of viability or the redistribution of cytochrome c, but it did prevent caspase-3 activation, PARP cleavage, and DNA fragmentation. Inhibition of the MPT reduced the activation of caspase-8 to the level occurring with TNF-alpha alone (no ActD). The caspase-8 inhibitor z-Ile-Glu(OMe)-Thr-Asp(OMe) fluoromethylketone (Z-IETD-FMK) did not prevent the cell killing and decreased only slightly the translocation of Bid to the mitochondria. These data indicate that induction of the MTP by TNF-alpha causes a release of cytochrome c, caspase-3 activation with PARP cleavage and DNA fragmentation. The loss of viability is dependent on the MPT but independent of the activation of caspase-3. The activation of caspase-8 is not dependent on the MPT. There is no evidence linking this enzyme to the loss of viability. Thus, the killing of L929 fibroblasts by TNF-alpha can occur in the absence of either caspase-3 or caspase-8 activity. Alternatively, cell death can be prevented despite an activation of caspase-8.

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