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Cell Death Differ. 1998 Nov;5(11):953-62.

Apoptosis, in human monocytic THP.1 cells, results in the release of cytochrome c from mitochondria prior to their ultracondensation, formation of outer membrane discontinuities and reduction in inner membrane potential.

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MRC Toxicology Unit, University of Leicester, UK.


Induction of apoptosis in human monocytic THP.1 cells by etoposide or N-tosyl-L-phenylalanyl chloromethyl ketone resulted in release of mitochondrial cytochrome c, formation of ultracondensed mitochondria, development of outer mitochondrial membrane discontinuities and a reduction in mitochondrial membrane potential (delta psi m), as well as externalisation of phosphatidylserine, caspase-3 and -7 activation, proteolysis of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase and lamin B1. The caspase inhibitor, benzyloxycarbonyl-Val-Ala-Asp (OMe) fluoromethyl ketone inhibited all these ultrastructural and biochemical characteristics of apoptosis except for the release of cytochrome c. Release of mitochondrial cytochrome c was a late event in non-apoptotic cell death occurring after commitment to cell death and without caspase activation. Thus apoptosis is characterised by release of mitochondrial cytochrome c prior to formation of ultracondensed mitochondria and a reduction in delta psi m and by a mechanism independent of rupture of the outer mitochondrial membrane.

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