Background: The glomerular endothelial cell is a specialized microvascular cell type involved in the regulation of glomerular ultrafiltration. During gram-negative sepsis, glomerulonephritis, and acute renal failure, bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) may cause severe cell damage. Our aim was to study and compare the direct effects of TNF-alpha and LPS on the induction of apoptosis in bovine glomerular endothelial cells.
Methods: Primary bovine glomerular endothelial cells were stimulated with TNF-alpha or LPS, and apoptotic cell death was investigated by DNA fragmentation analysis, morphological studies, measurement of cytochrome c efflux and mitochondrial permeability transition, Bak, Bad, Bax, Bcl-2, Bcl-xL protein expression, and caspase-3-like protease activity.
Results: TNF-alpha, as well as LPS, elicited apoptotic cell death both time and concentration dependently. Along with DNA ladder formation, we detected the formation of 50 kbp high molecular weight DNA fragments, nuclear condensation, and mitochondrial permeability transition. Concerning all parameters, LPS signaling proved to be more rapid than TNF-alpha. Mechanistically, TNF-alpha-induced cell death was preceded by an efflux of mitochondrial cytochrome c into the cytosol and, subsequently, by a marked increase in the proapoptotic protein Bak and a decrease in the anti-apoptotic Bcl-xL protein content. Comparable but more pronounced effects were seen with LPS. Later, caspase-3-like protease activity was first detectable after 10 hours and was continuously increased up to 24 hours in both TNF-alpha- and LPS-stimulated cells. Correspondingly, we detected an extended cleavage of the nuclear enzyme poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase. Caspase inhibitors Z-Asp-CH2-DCB and Z-VAD-fmk blocked both TNF-alpha- and LPS-induced apoptosis in a comparable manner. Only Z-Asp-CH2-DCB was able to block apoptotic cell death completely.
Conclusion: Both bacterial LPS and TNF-alpha potently induced apoptotic cell death in glomerular endothelial cells. Direct endotoxin-induced apoptosis may therefore be relevant in the progression of acute renal failure, which is a frequent complication of gram-negative sepsis.