Extensive apoptotic death of rat colonic cells deprived of crypt habitat

J Cell Physiol. 1998 Dec;177(3):377-86. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-4652(199812)177:3<377::AID-JCP1>3.0.CO;2-P.


Apoptosis in cells of different lineages is restrained by survival signals which depend upon cell-to-cell communication. The aim of this study was to determine whether colonic cells deprived of crypt ambient are doomed to die prior to their normal chronological demise. Apoptosis was studied in rat whole colonic tissue, in isolated intact crypts, and in colonic cell populations collected from the crypt axis at different stages of proliferation and differentiation. In a number of experiments, cell harvest was performed in the presence of either a tetrapeptide (YVAD-CMK) inhibitor of interleukin-1beta-converting enzyme (ICE), or tyrphostin A25, a protein tyrosine kinase inhibitor, or sodium-orthovanadate, a phosphatase inhibitor. DNA fragmentation was assessed by electrophoretic and nonisotopic-labeling procedures. The ultrastructure of colonic tissue specimens and isolated cells was examined by transmission electron microscopy. Apoptosis in whole colonic tissue and in isolated crypts was confined predominantly to cells resident in the upper crypt regions. In contrast, extensive apoptotic death was observed in isolated colonic cells, irrespective of their developmental stage and positional hierarchy within the crypt continuum at harvest time. An apoptotic gradient, however, was evident. Exposure to YVAD-CMK resulted in a marked decrease in the number of apoptotic cells. Treatment with tyrphostin A25 caused a sharp rise in the apoptotic index; conversely, vanadate significantly impeded apoptosis. Cumulatively, these results indicate that disordered intercellular communication provokes unscheduled ICE-mediated apoptosis of colonocytes, and that local signals along the crypt continuum control both the reprieve from death and the timely demise of distinct colonic cell populations. Attenuation of tyrosine phosphorylation may be a contributory event in the acquisition of the apoptotic phenotype.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Chloromethyl Ketones / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Caspase 1 / drug effects
  • Caspase 1 / metabolism
  • Cell Separation
  • Colon / cytology
  • Colon / physiology*
  • Male
  • Phosphorylation
  • Rats
  • Tyrosine / metabolism


  • Amino Acid Chloromethyl Ketones
  • N-acetyl-tyrosyl-valyl-alanyl-aspartyl chloromethyl ketone
  • Tyrosine
  • Caspase 1