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CJ Newton, D Bilko, S Pappa, and SL Atkin

The oestrogen receptor is fundamental to the growth and survival of the rat pituitary tumour cell line, GH(3). Our previous studies have shown that antioestrogens such as RU 58668 and ZM 182780 will reduce the rate of cell division and also induce cell death. Death of these cells in response to antioestrogen treatment appears to be due to a heightened sensitivity to reactive oxygen species (ROS). As part of a study to determine the cross-talk between steroid receptor systems in these cells, we have observed that the glucocorticoid, dexamethasone (Dex), inhibits antioestrogen-induced cell death. Cell death induced by H(2)O(2) is enhanced by ZM 182780 and this effect is also blocked by Dex. As apoptotic cell death in a number of systems involves an early loss of mitochondrial membrane potential (DeltaPsi(m)), we have performed detailed studies on the time-course of DeltaPsi(m) loss in relation to the loss in cell membrane function. These studies have indicated that a loss of DeltaPsi(m) parallels a loss of cell membrane function - this is more characteristic of necrosis than of apoptosis. From microscopic observations of these cells in response to H(2)O(2), it has been noted that early cell membrane blebbing, induced by H(2)O(2), is blocked in the presence of ZM 182780. Cell membrane blebbing can precede necrosis as well as apoptosis and it is thought to involve cytoskeletal changes, for which localised glycolytic reactions provide ATP. These observations, together with those showing that removal of glucose, but not inhibition of mitochondrial function, enhances ROS-induced cell death, prompted studies on the glycolytic pathway. As a strong candidate mechanism, it would appear that, via an effect on one of the rate-limiting glycolytic enzymes, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, Dex is able to overcome the antioestrogen-enhanced loss of glycolytic function following exposure of cells to ROS. This report contributes to the growing body of evidence showing that glucocorticoids provide a survival advantage to both normal and tumour cell types.

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CJ Newton, G Ran, YX Xie, D Bilko, CH Burgoyne, I Adams, A Abidia, PT McCollum, and SL Atkin

Statins block de novo synthesis of cholesterol by inhibiting the enzyme, HMG CoA reductase. The product of this reaction, mevalonic acid, is also a precursor of isoprenoids, molecules required for the activation of signalling G-proteins, such as Ras. Signal transduction pathways involving Ras are important for cell survival and this may be why statins induce apoptotic death of several cell types. Given that statins are used to treat vascular disease, it is surprising that no studies have been conducted on vascular endothelial cells. For this reason, we have tested the effect of fluvastatin (FS) on the endothelial cell line EA.hy 926. Here we show that FS, at concentrations from 1 to 2 microM, blocks growth and induces apoptosis of the endothelial cell line, EA.hy 926. As considerable redundancy exists in cell signalling pathways for cell survival, toxicity of FS under more physiological conditions might be prevented by pathways that do not require Ras, such as those activated by adrenal or sex steroids. To test this hypothesis, first RT-PCR analysis was performed for nuclear receptor mRNA expression. This revealed the presence of mRNA for the androgen receptor (AR) and glucocorticoid receptor (GR). The effect of the AR agonist, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and the GR agonist, dexamethasone (Dex), was then tested. Whilst DHT (100 nM) had no effect on FS-induced cell death, Dex (1 microM) blocked FS-induced apoptosis. Cell cycle analysis revealed that 24 h exposure to FS prevented cells from leaving G(1) and 24-48 h later a marked sub-G(1) peak was observed. Dex was able to reduce the sub-G(1) peak, but it failed to reduce accumulation of cells in G(1). Further studies revealed that, in addition to blocking FS-induced apoptosis, Dex was able to block apoptosis of EA.hy 926 cells induced by serum deprivation, tumour necrosis factor-alpha, oxidants, DNA damage and mitochondrial disruption. This study strongly suggests that glucocorticoids have a role to play in preventing vascular injury and they may provide a reason why statins are apparently not toxic to vascular endothelial cells in vivo.

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C J Newton, G Ran, Y X Xie, D Bilko, C H Burgoyne, I Adams, A Abidia, P T McCollum, and S L Atkin