Gliotoxin-induced cytotoxicity proceeds via apoptosis and is mediated by caspases and reactive oxygen species in LLC-PK1 cells

Xiaoming Zhou*, Aiping Zhao, Gertrud Goping, Przemyslaw Hirszel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Renal failure associated with aspergillosis is caused by pathogenic fungi. Gliotoxin is a toxic epipolythiodioxopiperazine metabolite produced by the pathogens. The present study investigated the cytotoxicity and underlying mechanisms induced by gliotoxin in LLC-PK1 cells, a porcine renal proximal tubular cell line. Gliotoxin at 100 ng/ml did not show a cytotoxic effect, but unmasked a dose-dependent cell death induced by TNF-α. TNFα-induced cell death in the presence of gliotoxin was associated with hypodiploid nuclei and activation of caspase-3-like proteases. Blockade of caspases by boc-aspartyl (OMe)-fluoromethylketone and z-DEVD.fmk inhibited TNF-α-induced cell death. As the concentrations of gliotoxin were increased, gliotoxin killed the cells directly in a dose-dependent manner. Further analyses of DNA fragmentation, hypodiploid nuclei, mitochondrial membrane potential, and plasma membrane integrity revealed that cell death proceeded via apoptosis. Gliotoxin-induced apoptosis was associated with dose-dependent and time- dependent activation of caspase-3-like proteases. Boc-aspartyl (OMe)- fluoromethylketone attenuated the killing effect. Gliotoxin also increased the intracellular levels of reactive oxygen species as measured by flow cytometry. N-acetylcysteine, a well-known antioxidant, completely abolished the gliotoxin-induced caspase-3-like activity, cytotoxicity, and reactive oxygen species. In conclusion, (1) gliotoxin at 100 ng/ml unmasks the ability of TNF-α-induced apoptosis, and the effect of TNF-α is mediated by caspase- 3-like proteases; and (2) at higher concentrations gliotoxin itself induces cell death, which is via apoptosis and dependent on caspase-3-like activity and reactive oxygen species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-202
Number of pages9
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Caspase
  • Cytotoxicity
  • Gliotoxin
  • LLC-PK1 cells
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • TNF-α


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