Simultaneous induction of apoptotic and survival signaling pathways in macrophage-like THP-1 cells by Shiga toxin 1. Academic Article uri icon


  • Shiga toxins have been shown to induce apoptosis in many cell types. However, Shiga toxin 1 (Stx1) induced only limited apoptosis of macrophage-like THP-1 cells in vitro. The mechanisms regulating macrophage death or survival following toxin challenge are unknown. Differentiated THP-1 cells expressed tumor necrosis factor receptors and membrane-associated tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and produced soluble TNF-alpha after exposure to Stx1. However, the cells were refractory to apoptosis induced by TNF-alpha, although the cytokine modestly increased apoptosis in the presence of Stx1. Despite the partial resistance of macrophage-like THP-1 cells to Stx1-mediated killing, treatment of these cells with Stx1 activated a broad array of caspases, disrupted the mitochondrial membrane potential (DeltaPsi(m)), and released cytochrome c into the cytoplasm. The DeltaPsi(m) values were greatest in cells that had detached from plastic surfaces. Specific caspase inhibitors revealed that caspase-3, caspase-6, caspase-8, and caspase-9 were primarily involved in apoptosis induction. The antiapoptotic factors involved in macrophage survival following toxin challenge include inhibitors of apoptosis proteins and X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein. NF-kappaB and JNK mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) appeared to activate survival pathways, while p38 MAPK was involved in proapoptotic signaling. The JNK and p38 MAPKs were shown to be upstream signaling pathways which may regulate caspase activation. Finally, the protein synthesis inhibitors Stx1 and anisomycin triggered limited apoptosis and prolonged JNK and p38 MAPK activation, while macrophage-like cells treated with cycloheximide remained viable and showed transient activation of MAPKs. Collectively, these data suggest that Stx1 activates both apoptotic and cell survival signaling pathways in macrophage-like THP-1 cells.

published proceedings

  • Infect Immun

author list (cited authors)

  • Lee, S., Cherla, R. P., & Tesh, V. L.

citation count

  • 29

publication date

  • March 2007