Glucose deprivation induces an atypical form of apoptosis mediated by caspase-8 in Bax-, Bak-deficient cells

Cell Death Differ. 2010 Aug;17(8):1335-44. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2010.21. Epub 2010 Mar 5.


Apoptosis induced by most stimuli proceeds through the mitochondrial pathway. One such stimulus is nutrient deprivation. In this study we studied death induced by glucose deprivation in cells deficient in Bax and Bak. These cells cannot undergo mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP) during apoptosis, but they undergo necrosis when treated with MOMP-dependent apoptotic stimuli. We find in these cells that glucose deprivation, rather than inducing necrosis, triggered apoptosis. Cell death required caspase activation as inhibition of caspases with peptidic inhibitors prevented death. Glucose deprivation-induced death displayed many hallmarks of apoptosis, such as caspase cleavage and activity, phosphatidyl-serine exposure and cleavage of caspase substrates. Neither overexpression of Bcl-xL nor knockdown of caspase-9 prevented death. However, transient or stable knockdown of caspase-8 or overexpression of CrmA inhibited apoptosis. Cell death was not inhibited by preventing death receptor-ligand interactions, by overexpression of c-FLIP or by knockdown of RIPK1. Glucose deprivation induced apoptosis in the human tumor cell line HeLa, which was prevented by knockdown of caspase-8. Thus, we have found that glucose deprivation can induce a death receptor-independent, caspase-8-driven apoptosis, which is engaged to kill cells that cannot undergo MOMP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis*
  • CASP8 and FADD-Like Apoptosis Regulating Protein / metabolism
  • Caspase 8 / genetics
  • Caspase 8 / metabolism*
  • Caspase 9 / genetics
  • Caspase 9 / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane Permeability / physiology
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Glucose / physiology*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Receptor-Interacting Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Receptor-Interacting Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Serpins / metabolism
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism
  • bcl-2 Homologous Antagonist-Killer Protein / deficiency
  • bcl-2 Homologous Antagonist-Killer Protein / genetics
  • bcl-2 Homologous Antagonist-Killer Protein / metabolism*
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / deficiency
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / genetics
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein / metabolism*


  • CASP8 and FADD-Like Apoptosis Regulating Protein
  • CFLAR protein, human
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Serpins
  • Viral Proteins
  • bcl-2 Homologous Antagonist-Killer Protein
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • interleukin-1beta-converting enzyme inhibitor
  • RIPK1 protein, human
  • Receptor-Interacting Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Caspase 8
  • Caspase 9
  • Glucose