Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-induced DNA damage and cell death have been attributed to the direct cytotoxicity of H2O2 and other oxidant species generated from H2O2. We examined the possibility that oxidants activate endonucleases leading to DNA damage and cell death in renal tubular epithelial cells, similar to that described for apoptosis. Within minutes, H2O2 caused DNA strand breaks in a dose-dependent manner, followed by cell death. DNA fragmentation was demonstrated both by the release of [3H]thymidine in 27,000-g supernatant as well as the occurrence of low molecular weight DNA fragments on agarose gel electrophoresis, characteristic of endonuclease cleavage. Endonuclease inhibitors, aurintricarboxylic acid, Evans blue, and zinc ion prevented H2O2-induced DNA strand breaks, fragmentation, and cell death. Inhibitors of protein or mRNA synthesis had only minor protection against H2O2-induced DNA damage in contrast to complete protection reported in apoptotic thymocytes. Micrococcal endonuclease induced similar DNA strand breaks in LLC-PK1 cells, and the endonuclease inhibitors prevented the events confirming the ability of endonucleases to induce DNA damage. The protective effect of aurintricarboxylic acid was not due to the prevention of the rise in intracellular free calcium. We conclude that endonuclease activation occurs as an early event leading to DNA damage and cell death in renal tubular epithelial cells exposed to oxidant stress and, in contrast to apoptotic thymocytes, does not require macromolecular synthesis.
N Ueda, S V Shah