Methylglyoxal induces apoptosis in Jurkat leukemia T cells by activating c-Jun N-terminal kinase

J Cell Biochem. 2000 Mar;77(2):333-44. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-4644(20000501)77:2<333::aid-jcb15>;2-q.


Methylglyoxal (MG) is a physiological metabolite, but it is known to be toxic, inducing stress in cells and causing apoptosis. This study examines molecular mechanisms in the MG-induced signal transduction leading to apoptosis, focusing particularly on the role of JNK activation. We first confirmed that MG caused apoptosis in Jurkat cells and that it was cell type dependent because it failed to induce apoptosis in MOLT-4, HeLa, or COS-7 cells. A caspase inhibitor, Z-DEVD-fmk, completely blocked MG-induced poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase (PARP) cleavage and apoptosis, showing the critical role of caspase activation. Inhibition of JNK activity by a JNK inhibitor, curcumin, remarkably reduced MG-induced caspase-3 activation, PARP cleavage, and apoptosis. Stable expression of the dominant negative mutant of JNK also protected cells against apoptosis notably, although not completely. Correspondingly, loss of the mitochondrial membrane potential induced by MG was decreased by the dominant negative JNK. These results confirmed a crucial role of JNK working upstream of caspases, as well as an involvement of JNK in affecting the mitochondrial membrane potential.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • COS Cells
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Cell Line
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Membranes / drug effects
  • Intracellular Membranes / metabolism
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / genetics
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Mutation
  • Oligopeptides / pharmacology
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases / metabolism
  • Pyruvaldehyde / toxicity*
  • Transfection


  • Caspase Inhibitors
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • Oligopeptides
  • benzoylcarbonyl-aspartyl-glutamyl-valyl-aspartyl-fluoromethyl ketone
  • Pyruvaldehyde
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3