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Biochem Pharmacol. 2001 Oct 1;62(7):821-8.

Mechanism of apoptosis in HL-60 cells induced by n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

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Department of Biological Chemistry, Faculty of Agriculture, Yamaguchi University, 753-8515, Yamaguchi, Japan.


The biochemical properties and specificity of n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are not well known. Because PUFAs induce apoptosis of different cells, we studied the effect of various PUFAs, such as arachidonic acid (AA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), on the fate of cultured human promyelocytic leukemia cells (HL-60) to elucidate the mechanism of apoptosis and the difference in action between n-3 and n-6 PUFAs. Fairly low concentrations of PUFAs inhibited the growth of HL-60 cells and induced their apoptosis by a mechanism that is sensitive to DMSO, an antioxidant, and z-Val-Ala-Asp(OMe)-fluoromethylketone (z-VAD-fmk), a pan-caspase inhibitor. PUFAs stimulated the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and activated various types of caspase-like proteases, such as caspase-3, -6, -8, and -9, but not caspase-1. In addition, PUFAs triggered the reaction leading to the cleavage of Bid, a death agonist member of the Bcl-2 family, and also released cytochrome c from mitochondria into the cytosol. PUFAs also decreased the mitochondrial membrane potential of intact HL-60 cells. All of these actions of n-3 PUFAs were stronger than those of AA, an n-6 PUFA, although the mechanism is not known. PUFAs stimulate swelling and membrane depolarization of isolated mitochondria in a cyclosporin A-sensitive manner. The results indicated that PUFA-induced apoptosis of HL-60 cells may be caused, in part, by direct action on the cells and by activation of the caspase cascade through cytochrome c release coupled with mitochondrial membrane depolarization.

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