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J Biol Chem. 1999 Feb 12;274(7):4309-18.

NF-kappaB activation is a critical regulator of human granulocyte apoptosis in vitro.

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Respiratory Medicine Unit, Department of Medicine (RIE), Rayne Laboratory, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG, United Kingdom.


During beneficial inflammation, potentially tissue-damaging granulocytes undergo apoptosis before being cleared by phagocytes in a non-phlogistic manner. Here we show that the rate of constitutive apoptosis in human neutrophils and eosinophils is greatly accelerated in both a rapid and concentration-dependent manner by the fungal metabolite gliotoxin, but not by its inactive analog methylthiogliotoxin. This induction of apoptosis was abolished by the caspase inhibitor zVAD-fmk, correlated with the inhibition of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kappaB), and was mimicked by a cell permeable inhibitory peptide of NF-kappaB, SN-50; other NF-kappaB inhibitors, curcumin and pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate; and the proteasome inhibitor, MG-132. Gliotoxin also augmented dramatically the early (2-6 h) pro-apoptotic effects of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) in neutrophils and unmasked the ability of TNF-alpha to induce eosinophil apoptosis. In neutrophils, TNF-alpha caused a gliotoxin-inhibitable activation of an inducible form of NF-kappaB, a response that may underlie the ability of TNF-alpha to delay apoptosis at later times (12-24 h) and limit its early killing effect. Furthermore, cycloheximide displayed a similar capacity to enhance TNF-alpha induced neutrophil apoptosis even at time points when cycloheximide alone had no pro-apoptotic effect, suggesting that NF-kappaB may regulate the production of protein(s) which protect neutrophils from the cytotoxic effects of TNF-alpha. These data shed light on the biochemical and molecular mechanisms regulating human granulocyte apoptosis and, in particular, indicate that the transcription factor NF-kappaB plays a crucial role in regulating the physiological cell death pathway in granulocytes.

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