We have previously reported that nitric oxide (NO) stimulates apoptosis in different human neoplastic lymphoid cell lines through mitochondrial damage (including degradation of cardiolipin, a major mitochondrial lipid) followed by activation of caspases. Here we demonstrate that Jurkat human leukemia cells which survive after 24 h treatment with NO form subpopulations with higher and lower cardiolipin content (designated as NAO(high) and NAO(low), respectively). Sorted NAO(high) cells were found to survive in culture whereas sorted NAO(low) cells died. Moreover, NAO(high) cells acquired an increased resistance to the exposure to NO donors which remained unchanged during long-term culture. These cells showed a similar cardiolipin content and expressed the same level of anti-apoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and Bcl-x(L) as APO-S unsorted cells but contained significantly higher concentration of the antioxidant glutathione. Depletion of glutathione in these cells with buthionine-sulfoximine (BSO) correlated with a significant stimulation of NO-mediated apoptosis whereas the exposure of NO-sensitive APO-S cells to the glutathione precursor N-acetylcysteine (NAC) resulted in a substantial suppression of this effect. Our data suggest a complex mechanism of the resistence to NO-induced apoptosis in Jurkat human leukemia cells in which glutathione plays an important role.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.