Apoptosis is a form of cell death crucial for normal development and tissue homeostasis. Its typical features include chromatin changes, nuclear breakdown, plasma membrane blebbing and splitting of cellular content into apoptotic bodies, that progressively undergo phagocytosis. Apoptosis is considered essential for skeletal muscle development, where defective cells are deleted during differentiation. In addition, it plays a relevant role in several muscle myopathies, as well as in denervation and disuse. The aim of this study was to evaluate muscle cell sensitivity to different apoptotic triggers, acting through different mechanisms of action. Chemical agents, active against distinct intracellular targets, such as mitochondrial respiratory chain and DNA, have been chosen to better highlight cell death mechanisms. To induce apoptosis, C2C12 myoblasts have been exposed to H(2)O(2), staurosporine, cisplatin and etoposide, at different doses and incubation times, and they have been analysed by flow cytometry, scanning and transmission electron microscopy. Flow cytometry analysis revealed a certain subdiploid peak after all treatments. The best apoptotic effect was observable, as confirmed at reverted microscope, at minimum doses and after the major exposure time. At ultrastructural level programmed cell death has been observed. Characteristic chromatin condensation and margination, as well as apoptotic bodies, frequently appeared, even if in the presence of secondary necrosis; surface blebs were also observed during scanning microscopic observation. In particular, exposure to H(2)O(2) or staurosporine showed the largest number of myoblasts in late apoptotic stages and in secondary necrosis. Cisplatin treatments revealed few early apoptotic cells. The analysis of etoposide-induced apoptosis was in agreement with data obtained from flow cytometry, indicating a significant increase of apoptotic cell number. These results suggest that all conditions are able to induce apoptosis in C2C12 myoblasts, which occurs, considering trigger mechanisms of action, mostly following the mitochondrial pathway, if not excluding that due to DNA damage. Therefore, mitochondria permeability alteration is an important step in skeletal muscle programmed cell death. This last conclusion seems to have a significant relevance in understanding the mechanisms involved in muscle disorders, denervation and chronic muscle disuse, conditions frequently characterized by a decline in mitochondrial content and by an increase of mitochondrial apoptosis susceptibility.
Copyright © 2010. Published by Elsevier Ltd.