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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2002 Oct;283(4):L830-8.

Rho protein inactivation induced apoptosis of cultured human endothelial cells.

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Charité, Department of Internal Medicine, Humboldt University, 13353 Berlin, Germany.


Small GTP-binding Rho GTPases regulate important signaling pathways in endothelial cells, but little is known about their role in endothelial cell apoptosis. Clostridial cytotoxins specifically inactivate GTPases by glucosylation [Clostridium difficile toxin B-10463 (TcdB-10463), C. difficile toxin B-1470 (TcdB-1470)] or ADP ribosylation (C. botulinum C3 toxin). Exposure of human umbilical cord vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) to TcdB-10463, which inhibits RhoA/Rac1/Cdc42, or to C3 toxin, which inhibits RhoA, -B, -C, resulted in apoptosis, whereas inactivation of Rac1/Cdc42 with TcdB-1470 was without effect, suggesting that Rho inhibition was responsible for endothelial apoptosis. Disruption of endothelial microfilaments as well as inhibition of p160ROCK did not induce endothelial apoptosis. Exposure to TcdB-10463 resulted in activation of caspase-9 and -3 but not caspase-8 in HUVEC. Moreover, Rho inhibition reduced expression of antiapoptotic Bcl-2 and Mcl-1 and increased proapoptotic Bid but had no effect on Bax or FLIP protein levels. Caspase-3 activity and apoptosis induced by TcdB-10463 were abolished by cAMP elevation. In summary, inhibition of Rho in endothelial cells activates caspase-9- and -3-dependent apoptosis, which can be antagonized by cAMP elevation.

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