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Environ Toxicol. 2018 Oct;33(10):1005-1018. doi: 10.1002/tox.22552. Epub 2018 Feb 27.

NF-κB/p53-activated inflammatory response involves in diquat-induced mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptosis.

Choi SE1,2, Park YS1,2, Koh HC1,2,3.

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Department of Pharmacology, College of Medicine, Hanyang University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Engineering, Hanyang University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
Hanyang Biomedical Research Institute, Seoul, Republic of Korea.


Inflammation generated by environmental toxicants including pesticides could be one of the factors underlying neuronal cell damage in neurodegenerative diseases. In this study, we investigated the mechanisms by which inflammatory responses contribute to apoptosis in PC12 cells treated with diquat. We found that diquat induced apoptosis, as demonstrated by the activation of caspases and nuclear condensation, inhibition of mitochondrial complex I activity, and decreased ATP level in PC12 cells. Diquat also reduced the dopamine level, indicating that cell death induced by diquat is due to cytotoxicity of dopaminergic neuronal components in these cells. Exposure of PC12 cells to diquat led to the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), and the antioxidant N-acetyl-cystein attenuated the cytotoxicity of caspase-3 pathways. These results demonstrate that diquat-induced apoptosis is involved in mitochondrial dysfunction through production of ROS. Furthermore, diquat increased expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) via inflammatory stimulation. Diquat induced nuclear accumulation of NF-κB and p53 proteins. Importantly, an inhibitor of NF-κB nuclear translocation blocked the increase of p53. Both NF-κB and p53 inhibitors also blocked the diquat-induced inflammatory response. Pretreatment of cells with meloxicam, a COX-2 inhibitor, also blocked apoptosis and mitochondrial dysfunction. These results represent a unique molecular characterization of diquat-induced cytotoxicity in PC12 cells. Our results demonstrate that diquat induces cell damage in part through inflammatory responses via NF-κB-mediated p53 signaling. This suggests the potential to generate mitochondrial damage via inflammatory responses and inflammatory stimulation-related neurodegenerative disease.


NF-κB signaling; diquat; inflammatory response; mitochondrial dysfunction; p53 signaling

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