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Cell Death Differ. 2004 Aug;11(8):924-36.

Camptothecin induced mitochondrial dysfunction leading to programmed cell death in unicellular hemoflagellate Leishmania donovani.

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Division of Infectious Diseases, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology. 4, Raja SC Mullick Road, Kolkata 700 032, India.


The parasites of the order kinetoplastidae including Leishmania spp. emerge from most ancient phylogenic branches of unicellular eukaryotic lineages. In their life cycle, topoisomerase I plays a significant role in carrying out vital cellular processes. Camptothecin (CPT), an inhibitor of DNA topoisomerase I, induces programmed cell death (PCD) both in the amastigotes and promastigotes form of L. donovani parasites. CPT-induced cellular dysfunction in L. donovani promastigotes is characterized by several cytoplasmic and nuclear features of apoptosis. CPT inhibits cellular respiration that results in mitochondrial hyperpolarization taking place by oligomycin-sensitive F0-F1 ATPase-like protein in leishmanial cells. During the early phase of activation, there is an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) inside cells, which causes subsequent elevation in the level of lipid peroxidation and decrease in reducing equivalents like GSH. Endogenous ROS formation and lipid peroxidation cause eventual loss of mitochondrial membrane potential. Furthermore, cytochrome c is released into the cytosol in a manner independent of involvement of CED3/CPP32 group of proteases and unlike mammalian cells it is insensitive to cyclosporin A. These events are followed by activation of both CED3/CPP32 and ICE group of proteases in PCD of Leishmania. Taken together, our study indicates that different biochemical events leading to apoptosis in leishmanial cells provide information that could be exploited to develop newer potential therapeutic targets.

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