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Mol Cell Biol. 1998 Nov;18(11):6353-64.

The mitochondrial permeability transition is required for tumor necrosis factor alpha-mediated apoptosis and cytochrome c release.

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  • 1Departments of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.


This study assesses the controversial role of the mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT) in apoptosis. In primary rat hepatocytes expressing an IkappaB superrepressor, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha) induced apoptosis as shown by nuclear morphology, DNA ladder formation, and caspase 3 activation. Confocal microscopy showed that TNFalpha induced onset of the MPT and mitochondrial depolarization beginning 9 h after TNFalpha treatment. Initially, depolarization and the MPT occurred in only a subset of mitochondria; however, by 12 h after TNFalpha treatment, virtually all mitochondria were affected. Cyclosporin A (CsA), an inhibitor of the MPT, blocked TNFalpha-mediated apoptosis and cytochrome c release. Caspase 3 activation, cytochrome c release, and apoptotic nuclear morphological changes were induced after onset of the MPT and were prevented by CsA. Depolarization and onset of the MPT were blocked in hepatocytes expressing DeltaFADD, a dominant negative mutant of Fas-associated protein with death domain (FADD), or crmA, a natural serpin inhibitor of caspases. In contrast, Asp-Glu-Val-Asp-cho, an inhibitor of caspase 3, did not block depolarization or onset of the MPT induced by TNFalpha, although it inhibited cell death completely. In conclusion, the MPT is an essential component in the signaling pathway for TNFalpha-induced apoptosis in hepatocytes which is required for both cytochrome c release and cell death and functions downstream of FADD and crmA but upstream of caspase 3.

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