IFN-γ Induces Apoptosis in HL-60 Cells Through Decreased Bcl-2 and Increased Bak Expression

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Journal of Interferon & Cytokine Research


Interferons (IFNs) are pleiotropic cytokines responsible for inducing innate and adaptive immunities against a wide range of viruses and other microbial pathogens. In addition, IFNs also exert antitumor activities due to their antiproliferative, immunomodulatory, proapoptotic functions. In the last decades, the successful clinical application of IFNs for treatment of cancer, particularly leukemia, has improved the quality and longevity of life for many patients. The induction of tumor cell apoptosis by IFNs is believed to contribute, at least in part, to the beneficial effects. IFN subtypes, such as IFN-α, IFN-β, and IFN-γ, induce apoptosis through cell type-specific signaling pathways, and several putative IFN-stimulated genes (ISGs) with proapoptotic functions have been identified. Here, we analyzed the ability of IFN-α, IFN-β, or IFN-γ to induce apoptosis in several malignant hematologic cell lines. We found that treatment with IFN-γ, but not IFN-α, or IFN-β, specifically induces HL-60 leukemia cells to undergo apoptosis. Roughly 30% of HL-60 cells treated for 48 h with IFN-γ, but not IFN-γ, or IFN-β, underwent apoptosis as monitored by annexin V labeling to determine changes in phosphatidylserine (PS) asymmetry and TUNEL assay to detect DNA fragmentation. Consistent with these results, treatment with IFN-γ, but not IFN-α or IFN-β, induced the release of cytochrome c, activation of caspase-3, and cleavage of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP), a well-characterized caspase-3 substrate. Further investigation into the potential mechanism responsible for mitochondrial disruption revealed that treatment with IFN-γ caused decreased levels of Bcl-2 and increased levels of Bak. This study thus provides the basis for additional research to uncover the molecular mechanism by which IFN-γ regulates the expression of Bcl-2 family members in various cell types.