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Infect Immun. 2008 Oct;76(10):4783-91. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01612-07. Epub 2008 Jul 21.

Cytolethal distending toxin induces caspase-dependent and -independent cell death in MOLT-4 cells.

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Department of Bacteriology, Hiroshima University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Hiroshima, Japan.


Cytolethal distending toxin (CDT) induces apoptosis using the caspase-dependent classical pathway in the majority of human leukemic T cells (MOLT-4). However, we found the process to cell death is only partially inhibited by pretreatment of the cells with a general caspase inhibitor, z-VAD-fmk. Flow cytometric analysis using annexin V and propidium iodide showed that a 48-h CDT treatment decreased the living cell population by 35% even in the presence of z-VAD-fmk. z-VAD-fmk completely inhibited caspase activity in 24 h CDT-intoxicated cells. Further, CDT with z-VAD-fmk treatment clearly increased the cell population that had a low level of intracellular reactive oxygen. This is a characteristic opposite to that of caspase-dependent apoptosis. Overexpression of bcl2 almost completely inhibited cell death using CDT treatment in the presence of z-VAD-fmk. The data suggest there are at least two different pathways used in CDT-induced cell death: conventional caspase-dependent (early) apoptotic cell death and caspase-independent (late) death. Both occur via the mitochondrial membrane disruption pathway.

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