While acute organophosphorous compound poisoning due to inhibition of acetylcholinesterase is a well-established clinical entity, the existence of chronic poisoning due to exposure to low levels of organophosphorous compounds (below the threshold required for cholinergic clinical symptoms) is a hotly debated issue. In this study, we have evaluated the effects of noncholinergic doses of malathion (0.01-20 μM) on apoptosis of murine L929 fibroblasts. Employing flow cytometric and caspase activation analyses we demonstrate that malathion induces apoptosis in L929 cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner. The initiator caspases (caspase-8 and caspase-9) as well as the effector caspase (caspase-3) were activated by the treatment of L929 cells with malathion. Exposure of L929 cells to malathion in the presence of a general inhibitor of caspase, z-VAD-FMK abolished the apoptotic effect of the compound. In addition, malathion induced an increase in the expression of the pro-apoptotic protein p53. However, the induction of p53 expression was subsequent to activation of the caspase cascades. The present findings suggest, that the cytotoxicity of malathion at noncholinergic doses is mediated through caspase-dependent apoptosis.
- Organophosphorus compounds
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