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Am J Physiol. 1997 Jan;272(1 Pt 1):G106-15.

Development and initial application of an in vitro model of apoptosis in rodent cholangiocytes.

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Division of Gastroenterologic and General Surgery, Mayo Medical School, Clinic and Foundation, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.


Although histological data suggest that cholangiocytes die by apoptosis in human liver diseases, no information exists on the mechanisms of cholangiocyte apoptosis. Thus our aims were to establish an in vitro model of cholangiocyte apoptosis and to test the hypothesis that changes in intracellular ions would cause apoptosis in cholangiocytes by a protease-sensitive pathway. A large number of proapoptotic agents were ineffective in inducing apoptosis in rat or human cholangiocytes in culture; in contrast, beauvericin, a K+ ionophore, caused apoptosis in both cell lines, despite their expression of Bcl-2. Although beauvericin decreased intracellular K+ and increased intracellular Ca2+, abolishing the K+ gradient did not prevent beauvericin-induced apoptosis; in contrast, omission of extracellular Ca2+ inhibited apoptosis by 42%. The interleukin-1 beta-converting enzyme (ICE) family protease inhibitor, Z-Val-Ala-Asp chloromethylketone, inhibited apoptosis in a concentration-dependent manner. By Northern blot analysis, cholangiocytes expressed the mRNA for three members of the ICE protease family: ICE, ICE/ CED-3 homologue-1 (ICH-1), and cysteine protease P-32 (CPP-32). Cleavage of a substrate for CPP-32-like protease activity, but not a substrate for ICE and ICH-1, increased after beauvericin treatment. In summary, we have established an in vitro model of apoptosis in cholangiocytes. Our data suggest that beauvericin-induced apoptosis occurs by a Ca(2+)-dependent CPP-32 protease-sensitive pathway despite cholangiocyte expression of Bcl-2.

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