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Nat Med. 1997 Nov;3(11):1228-32.

Apoptosis-associated signaling pathways are required for chemotherapy-mediated female germ cell destruction.

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Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Harvard Medical School, Boston 02114, USA.


Female sterility resulting from oocyte destruction is an unfortunate, and in many cases inevitable, consequence of chemotherapy. We show that unfertilized mouse oocytes exposed to therapeutic levels of the antitumor drug, doxorubicin (DXR), undergo apoptosis; however, fertilized oocytes do not initiate apoptosis, but enter cell-cycle arrest, when treated with DXR. Apoptosis induced by DXR in oocytes is blocked by sphingosine-1-phosphate, an inhibitor of ceramide-promoted cell death. Oocytes from Bax-deficient, but not p53-null, female mice display complete resistance to DXR-induced apoptosis in vivo and in vitro. Pretreatment of oocytes with a specific peptide inhibitor of caspases also abrogates the apoptotic response to DXR. These findings indicate that oocyte destruction caused by chemotherapy can be prevented by manipulation of apoptosis-associated signaling pathways.

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[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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