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Cell Death Differ. 2007 Feb;14(2):358-67. Epub 2006 Jul 14.

Apoptosis is induced in leishmanial cells by a novel protein kinase inhibitor withaferin A and is facilitated by apoptotic topoisomerase I-DNA complex.

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


Protein kinase C (PKC) is an important constituent of the signaling pathways involved in apoptosis. We report here that like staurosporine, withaferin A is a potent inhibitor of PKC. In Leishmania donovani, the inhibition of PKC by withaferin A causes depolarization of DeltaPsim and generates ROS inside cells. Loss of DeltaPsim leads to the release of cytochrome c into the cytosol and subsequently activates caspase-like proteases and oligonucleosomal DNA cleavage. Moreover, in treated cells, oxidative DNA lesions facilitate the stabilization of topoisomerase I-mediated cleavable complexes, which also contribute to DNA fragmentation. However, withaferin A and staurosporine cannot induce cleavable complex formation in vitro with recombinant topoisomerase I nor with nuclear extracts from control cells. Taken together, our results indicate that inhibition of PKC by withaferin A is a central event for the induction of apoptosis and that the stabilization of topoisomerase I-DNA complex is necessary to amplify apoptotic process.

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