Thimerosal induces neuronal cell apoptosis by causing cytochrome c and apoptosis-inducing factor release from mitochondria
- Leman Yel
- Lorrel E. Brown
- Kevin Su
- Sastry Gollapudi
- Sudhir Gupta
Published online on: December 1, 2005
There is a worldwide increasing concern over the neurological risks of thimerosal (ethylmercury thiosalicylate) which is an organic mercury compound that is commonly used as an antimicrobial preservative. In this study, we show that thimerosal, at nanomolar concentrations, induces neuronal cell death through the mitochondrial pathway. Thimerosal, in a concentration- and time-dependent manner, decreased cell viability as assessed by calcein-ethidium staining and caused apoptosis detected by Hoechst 33258 dye. Thimerosal-induced apoptosis was associated with depolarization of mitochondrial membrane, generation of reactive oxygen species, and release of cytochrome c and apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) from mitochondria to cytosol. Although thimerosal did not affect cellular expression of Bax at the protein level, we observed translocation of Bax from cytosol to mitochondria. Finally, caspase-9 and caspase-3 were activated in the absence of caspase-8 activation. Our data suggest that thimerosal causes apoptosis in neuroblastoma cells by changing the mitochondrial microenvironment.