Nitric oxide protects PC12 cells from serum deprivation-induced apoptosis by cGMP-dependent inhibition of caspase signaling

Young Myeong Kim*, Hun Taeg Chung, Sung Soo Kim, Jeong A. Han, Yeong Min Yoo, Ki Mo Kim, Gwang Hoon Lee, Hye Young Yun, Angela Green, Jianrong Li, Richard L. Simmons, Timothy R. Billiar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

213 Scopus citations


Although nitric oxide (NO) induces neuronal cell death under some conditions, it also can prevent apoptosis resulting from growth factor withdrawal. We investigated the molecular mechanism by which NO protects undifferentiated and differentiated PC12 cells from trophic factor deprivation-induced apoptosis. PC12 cells underwent apoptotic death in association with increased caspase-3-like activity, DNA fragmentation, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) cleavage, and cytochrome c release after 24 hr of serum withdrawal. The apoptosis of PC12 cells was inhibited by the addition of NO-generating donor S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine (SNAP) (5- 100 μM) and the specific caspase-3-like protease inhibitor Ac-Asp-Glu-Val- Asp-aldehyde (Ac-DEVD-cho) but not the YVADase (or caspase-1-like protease) inhibitor N-acetyl-Tyr-Val-Ala-Asp-aldehyde (Ac-YVAD-cho). SNAP and Ac-DEVD- cho prevented the increase in DEVDase (caspase-3-like protease) activity. The SNAP-mediated suppression of DEVDase activity was only minimally reversed by the incubation of cell lysate with dithiothreitol, indicating that NO did not S-nitrosylate caspase-3-like proteases in PC12 cells. Western blot analysis showed that NO inhibited the proteolytic activation of caspase-3. The cGMP analog 8-bromo-cGMP (8-Br-cGMP) blocked apoptotic cell death, caspase-3 activity and activation, and cytochrome c release. The soluble guanylyl cyclase inhibitor 1-H-oxodiazol-[1,2,4]-[4,3-a] quinoxaline-1-one (CODQ) significantly attenuated NO-mediated, but not 8-Br-cGMP-dependent, inhibition of apoptotic cell death, PARP cleavage, cytochrome c release, and DEVDase activity. Furthermore, the protein kinase G inhibitor KT5823 reversed both SNAP- and 8-Br-cGMP-mediated anti-apoptotic events. All these apoptotic phenomena were also suppressed by NO production through neuronal NO synthase gene transfer into PC12 cells. Furthermore, similar findings were observed in differentiated PC12 cells stimulated to undergo apoptosis by NO donors and NGF deprivation. These findings indicate that NO protects against PC12 cell death by inhibiting the activation of caspase proteases through cGMP production and activation of protein kinase G.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6740-6747
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number16
StatePublished - 15 Aug 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Caspase
  • Nitric oxide
  • PC12
  • Protein kinase G
  • Soluble guanylyl cyclase
  • cGMP


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