Cold-induced apoptosis of hepatocytes: mitochondrial permeability transition triggered by nonmitochondrial chelatable iron

Free Radic Biol Med. 2003 Dec 15;35(12):1664-78. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2003.09.018.


We previously described that the cold-induced apoptosis of cultured hepatocytes is mediated by an increase in the cellular chelatable iron pool. We here set out to assess whether a mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT) is involved in cold-induced apoptosis. When cultured hepatocytes were rewarmed after 18 h of cold (4 degrees C) incubation in cell culture medium or University of Wisconsin solution, the vast majority of cells rapidly lost mitochondrial membrane potential. This loss was due to MPT as assessed by confocal laser scanning microscopy and as evidenced by the inhibitory effect of the MPT inhibitors trifluoperazine plus fructose. The occurrence of the MPT was iron-dependent: it was strongly inhibited by the iron chelators 2,2'-dipyridyl and deferoxamine. Addition of trifluoperazine plus fructose also strongly inhibited cold-induced apoptosis, suggesting that the MPT constitutes a decisive intermediate event in the pathway leading to cold-induced apoptosis. Further experiments employing the non-site-specific iron indicator Phen Green SK and specifically mitochondrial iron indicators and chelators (rhodamine B-[(1,10-phenanthrolin-5-yl)aminocarbonyl]benzyl ester, RPA, and rhodamine B-[(2,2'-bipyridin-4-yl)aminocarbonyl]benzyl ester, RDA) suggest that it is the cold-induced increase in cytosolic chelatable iron that triggers the MPT and that mitochondrial chelatable iron is not involved in this process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cold Temperature*
  • Hepatocytes / cytology*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Iron / chemistry
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron Chelating Agents / chemistry*
  • Male
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Permeability
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Iron Chelating Agents
  • Iron