Thimerosal induces neuronal cell apoptosis by causing cytochrome c and apoptosis-inducing factor release from mitochondria

Int J Mol Med. 2005 Dec;16(6):971-7.

Abstract

There is a worldwide increasing concern over the neurological risks of thimerosal (ethylmercury thiosalicylate) which is an organic mercury compound that is commonly used as an antimicrobial preservative. In this study, we show that thimerosal, at nanomolar concentrations, induces neuronal cell death through the mitochondrial pathway. Thimerosal, in a concentration- and time-dependent manner, decreased cell viability as assessed by calcein-ethidium staining and caused apoptosis detected by Hoechst 33258 dye. Thimerosal-induced apoptosis was associated with depolarization of mitochondrial membrane, generation of reactive oxygen species, and release of cytochrome c and apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) from mitochondria to cytosol. Although thimerosal did not affect cellular expression of Bax at the protein level, we observed translocation of Bax from cytosol to mitochondria. Finally, caspase-9 and caspase-3 were activated in the absence of caspase-8 activation. Our data suggest that thimerosal causes apoptosis in neuroblastoma cells by changing the mitochondrial microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis Inducing Factor / metabolism*
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase 9
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cytochromes c / metabolism*
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases / metabolism
  • Protein Transport
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Thimerosal / pharmacology*
  • Time Factors
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / metabolism

Substances

  • Apoptosis Inducing Factor
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • Thimerosal
  • Cytochromes c
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase 9
  • Caspases