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FASEB J. 1993 Mar;7(5):453-63.

Ca2+ antagonists inhibit DNA fragmentation and toxic cell death induced by acetaminophen.

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Toxicology Program, College of Pharmacy, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque 87131-1066.


Ca2+ accumulates in the nucleus and DNA undergoes enzymatic cleavage into internucleosome-length fragments before acetaminophen and dimethylnitrosamine produce hepatic necrosis in vivo and toxic cell death in vitro. However, Ca(2+)-endonuclease fragmentation of DNA is characteristic of apoptosis, a type of cell death considered biochemically and functionally distinct from toxic cell death. The present studies investigate DNA fragmentation as a critical event in toxic cell death by testing whether the Ca(2+)-calmodulin antagonist chlorpromazine and the Ca2+ channel blocker verapamil prevent acetaminophen-induced hepatic necrosis by inhibiting Ca2+ deregulation and DNA damage. Acetaminophen overdose in mice produced accumulation of Ca2+ in the nucleus (358% of control) and fragmentation of DNA (250% of control) by 6 h, with peak release of ALT occurring at 12-24 h (38,000 U/l). Pretreatment with chlorpromazine prevented increases in nuclear Ca2+ and DNA fragmentation and nearly abolished biochemical evidence of toxic cell death. Verapamil pretreatment also decreased Ca2+ accumulation and DNA damage while attenuating liver injury. The Ca2+ antagonists did not protect against toxic cell death through hypothermia because neither produced the delay in toxicity that is customarily associated with hypothermia. Nor did chlorpromazine or verapamil protect through inhibiting acetaminophen bioactivation. Chlorpromazine failed to diminish glutathione depletion in whole liver and isolated nuclei. Verapamil (250 microM) also failed to alter glutathione depletion in whole liver and had no effect on acetaminophen-glutathione adduct formation by mouse liver microsomes and by cultured mouse hepatocytes. Collectively, these results support the hypothesis that Ca(2+)-induced DNA fragmentation plays a significant role in cell necrosis produced by acetaminophen and may contribute to toxic cell death caused by other alkylating hepatotoxins.

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