The death of a cell via apoptosis is characterized by morphological changes including cell shrinkage and nuclear condensation. Intracellularly, proteases, including caspases, are activated. In the present article we have compared the ability of three different neurotoxic agents to induce caspase activity in cerebellar granule cells (CGC). These compounds are the micro-tubule-disrupting agent colchicine and the oxidative stress-inducing agents hydrogen peroxide and meth-ylmercury (MeHg). We have previously shown that each of these agents causes nuclear changes that are consistent with apoptosis, i.e., induction of chromatin condensation and DNA cleavage into fragments of regular size (700, 300 and 50 kbp). However, only colchicine causes a large increase in caspase activity, as monitored by the ability of whole cell extracts to cleave the synthetic caspase substrate DEVD-MCA. In contrast, MeHg and hydrogen peroxide do not induce any significant increase of DEVDase activity as compared to control cells. Immunocytochemistry confirms that active caspase-3 is abundant only in colchicine-exposed cells. In agreement with these findings, the pan-caspase inhibitor, z-VAD-fmk, is efficient in protecting CGC against colchicine, but not against hydrogen peroxide or MeHg. These data suggest that in CGC the activation of caspases is not always required to induce morphological changes and pattern of DNA fragmentation consistent with apoptosis.
Neurotoxicity Research – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 2, 2009
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