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Int J Mol Med. 2012 Jun;29(6):1025-30. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2012.946. Epub 2012 Mar 22.

Apoptosis induced by pneumolysin in human endothelial cells involves mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphorylation.

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  • 1Key Laboratory of Laboratory Medical Diagnostics, Ministry of Education, Faculty of Laboratory Medicine, Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing 400016, PR China.


Pneumolysin (Ply) is an essential virulence factor of S. pneumoniae, which can induce apoptosis in a variety of host cells to facilitate infection of pathogenic bacteria by as yet unclear mechanisms. To confirm the apoptosis-inducing properties of pneumolysin in endothelial cells, human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) were exposed to pneumolysin. The proliferation of HUVECs was inhibited by pneumolysin in a dose- and time-dependent manner. Flow cytometry analysis and ultrastructural changes of the cells indicated the apoptotic response. Exposure to pneumolysin significantly increased the number of apoptotic cells and the activities of caspases-3 and -8. This change was associated with activation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and suppression of extracellular signaling regulation kinase (ERK)1/2. Pre-exposure to the p38 MAPK inhibitor SB-203850 prevented human endothelial cells from apoptosis induced by pneumolysin. In conclusion, these findings demonstrate that pneumolysin induces apoptosis in endothelial cells and the involvement of p38 MAPK activation and ERK1/2 deactivation.

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