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      Microcystin-LR Induced Apoptosis in Rat Sertoli Cells via the Mitochondrial Caspase-Dependent Pathway: Role of Reactive Oxygen Species

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          Microcystins (MCs), the secondary metabolites of blue-green algae, are ubiquitous and major cyanotoxin contaminants. Besides the hepatopancreas/liver, the reproductive system is regarded as the most important target organ for MCs. Although reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been implicated in MCs-induced reproductive toxicity, the role of MCs in this pathway remains unclear. In the present study, Sertoli cells were employed to investigate apoptotic death involved in male reproductive toxicity of microcystin-LR (MC-LR). After exposure to various concentrations of MC-LR for 24 h, the growth of Sertoli cells was concentration-dependently decreased with an IC 50 of ~32 μg/mL. Mitochondria-mediated apoptotic changes were observed in Sertoli cells exposed to 8, 16, and 32 μg/mL MC-LR including the increased expression of caspase pathway proteins, collapse of mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP), and generation of ROS. Pretreatment with a global caspase inhibitor was found to depress the activation of caspases, and eventually increased the survival rate of Sertoli cells, implying that the mitochondrial caspases pathway is involved in MC-LR-induced apoptosis. Furthermore, N-acetyl-l-cysteine attenuated the MC-LR-induced intracellular ROS generation, MMP collapse and cytochrome c release, resulting in the inhibition of apoptosis. Taken together, the observed results suggested that MC-LR induced apoptotic death of Sertoli cells by the activation of mitochondrial caspases cascade, while its effects on the ROS-mediated signaling pathway may contribute toward the initiation of mitochondrial dysfunction.

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          Most cited references 36

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          The central role of Sertoli cells in spermatogenesis.

           M D Griswold (1998)
          Sertoli cells are the somatic cells of the testis that are essential for testis formation and spermatogenesis. Sertoli cells facilitate the progression of germ cells to spermatozoa via direct contact and by controlling the environment milieu within the seminiferous tubules. The regulation of spermatogenesis by FSH and testosterone occurs by the action of these hormones on the Sertoli cells. While the action of testosterone is necessary for spermatogenesis, the action of FSH minimally serves to promote spermatogenic output by increasing the number of Sertoli cells. Copyright 1998 Academic Press.
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            Molecular Mechanisms of Microcystin Toxicity in Animal Cells

            Microcystins (MC) are potent hepatotoxins produced by the cyanobacteria of the genera Planktothrix, Microcystis, Aphanizomenon, Nostoc and Anabaena. These cyclic heptapeptides have strong affinity to serine/threonine protein phosphatases (PPs) thereby acting as an inhibitor of this group of enzymes. Through this interaction a cascade of events responsible for the MC cytotoxic and genotoxic effects in animal cells may take place. Moreover MC induces oxidative stress in animal cells and together with the inhibition of PPs, this pathway is considered to be one of the main mechanisms of MC toxicity. In recent years new insights on the key enzymes involved in the signal-transduction and toxicity have been reported demonstrating the complexity of the interaction of these toxins with animal cells. Key proteins involved in MC up-take, biotransformation and excretion have been identified, demonstrating the ability of aquatic animals to metabolize and excrete the toxin. MC have shown to interact with the mitochondria. The consequences are the dysfunction of the organelle, induction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and cell apoptosis. MC activity leads to the differential expression/activity of transcriptional factors and protein kinases involved in the pathways of cellular differentiation, proliferation and tumor promotion activity. This activity may result from the direct inhibition of the protein phosphatases PP1 and PP2A. This review aims to summarize the increasing data regarding the molecular mechanisms of MC toxicity in animal systems, reporting for direct MC interacting proteins and key enzymes in the process of toxicity biotransformation/excretion of these cyclic peptides.
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              Comparative toxicity evaluation of cyanobacterial cyclic peptide toxin microcystin variants (LR, RR, YR) in mice.

              The cyclic peptide toxins microcystins and nodularins are the most common and abundant cyanotoxins present in diverse water systems. They have been the cause of human and animal health hazards and even death. Over 60 microcystin variants have been reported so far. We report here the results of our study on comparative toxicity evaluation of three most predominant microcystins, MC-LR, MC-RR and MC-YR in mice. The mice were administered one LD(50) dose of MC-LR, RR and YR (43, 235.4 and 110.6 micro g/kg body weight, respectively), and biochemical and histological variables were determined at 30 min post-treatment and mean time to death (MTD). Significant increase in liver body weight index was induced by all three variants. There was marginal increase in serum levels of hepatic enzymes viz. AST, ALT and gamma-GT at 30 min post-treatment but 3-4 fold increase was observed at MTD. In contrast, enhanced LDH leakage, DNA fragmentation and depletion of hepatic glutathione was observed at 30 min post treatment in all three variants. There was no change in levels of serum protein, albumin and albumin/globulin ratio. Liver histology showed time dependent severe pathological lesions like congestion, haemorrhage, portal mononuclear cell infiltration and obliteration of chromatin material. Lung lesions were predominantly in bronchi and parenchyma. Though qualitatively lesions were identical in all three microcystin variants, degree of liver and lung lesions varied quantitatively with the toxin. The breathing pattern and respiratory frequency of the mice after i.p. administration of the toxin showed uniform pattern for 90 min followed by abrupt change in the respiratory pattern and instantaneous death. Based on biochemical and histological studies, MC-LR was found to be the most potent toxin followed by MC-YR and MC-RR.

                Author and article information

                Front Physiol
                Front Physiol
                Front. Physiol.
                Frontiers in Physiology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                09 September 2016
                : 7
                Department of Environmental Health, School of Public Health, Zhengzhou University Zhengzhou, China
                Author notes

                Edited by: Hua Linda Cai, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

                Reviewed by: Deepesh Pandey, Johns Hopkins University, USA; Houzao Chen, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, China

                *Correspondence: Huizhen Zhang huizhen18@

                This article was submitted to Oxidant Physiology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Physiology

                †These authors have contributed equally to this work.

                Copyright © 2016 Huang, Liu, Fu, Zhang, Xin, Li, Xue, Cheng and Zhang.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 8, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 42, Pages: 10, Words: 6135
                Funded by: National Natural Science Foundation of China 10.13039/501100001809
                Award ID: 81472948
                Original Research


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