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Cell Tissue Res. 2006 Oct;326(1):179-86. Epub 2006 Jun 10.

Oligomycin A induces autophagy in the IPLB-LdFB insect cell line.

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Department of Structural and Functional Biology, University of Insubria, 21100, Varese, Italy.


Functional and morphological modifications in the IPLB-LdFB insect cell line were examined following a short treatment with a reversible inhibitor of mitochondrial ATP synthase, oligomycin A, and subsequent incubation for various times in oligomycin-A-free medium. Oncosis, apoptosis and autophagy at variable percentages were observed under the various experimental conditions. Together with oncotic and apoptotic pathways that lead directly to cell death, the insect cells responded to ATP depletion with autophagy. Our results revealed that, in most cases, autophagy failed to restore cellular homeostasis, probably because of a massive sequestration of mitochondria in autophagic vacuoles. This critical event was a "point of no return" and ultimately resulted in cell necrosis. However, cells with a misshapen body and nucleus resembling "resistant forms" were observed at the end of the experiments. Our findings indicate that oligomycin-A-induced autophagy can promote cell protection or cell destruction and is an open-ended process that can lead to survival or death depending on a combination of concomitant factors.

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