Background: This study tested the following hypotheses: (a) renal tubular epithelial cells subjected to transient adenosine triphosphate (ATP) depletion undergo apoptosis, and (b) induction of heat stress proteins (HSPs) inhibits cell death following ATP depletion, possibly by interacting with anti-apoptotic signal proteins.
Methods: To simulate ischemia in vivo, cells derived from opossum kidney proximal tubule (OK) were subjected to ATP depletion (5 mM cyanide, 5 mM 2-deoxy-D-glucose, and 0 mM glucose) for 1 to 1. 5 hours, followed by recovery (10 mM glucose without cyanide). The presence of apoptosis was assessed by morphological and biochemical criteria. The effect of prior heat stress or caspase inhibition on apoptosis and cell survival were assessed.
Results: In the ATP-depleted cell, both Hoechst dye and electron microscopy revealed morphological features that are typical of apoptosis. On an agarose gel, a "ladder pattern" typical of endonucleosomal DNA degradation was observed. Prior heat stress reduced the number of apoptotic-appearing cells, significantly decreased DNA fragmentation, and improved cell survival compared with controls (73.0 +/- 1% vs. 53.0 +/- 1.5%; P < 0.05). Two different caspase inhibitors also improved survival, suggesting that apoptosis is a cause of cell death in this model. Compared with ATP-depleted controls, prior heat stress inhibited the pro-apoptotic changes in the ratio of Bcl2 to BAX, proteins known to regulate the apoptotic set point in renal cells. HSP 72, a known cytoprotectant, co-immunoprecipitated with Bcl2, an anti-apoptotic protein. Prior heat stress markedly increased the interaction between HSP 72 and Bcl2.
Conclusions: Transient ATP depletion causes apoptosis in tubular epithelial cells. Prior HS inhibits apoptosis and improves survival in these cells. Novel interactions between HSP 72 and Bcl2 may be responsible, at least in part, for the protection afforded by prior heat stress against ATP depletion injury.