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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Protection against CD95-mediated apoptosis by inorganic mercury in Jurkat T cells.

Dysregulation of CD95/Fas-mediated apoptosis has been implicated as a contributing factor in autoimmune disorders. Animal studies clearly have established a connection between mercury exposure and autoimmune disease in rodents, while case reports have suggested a link between accidental mercury contamination and autoimmune disease in humans. The mechanism(s) for these associations are poorly understood. Using the Jurkat cell model, we have found that low levels (</=10 microM) of inorganic mercury (i.e., HgCl2) attenuated anti-CD95-mediated growth arrest and markedly enhanced cell survival. Several biochemical assays for apoptosis, including DNA degradation, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase degradation, and phosphatidylserine externalization, directly verified that HgCl2 attenuated anti-CD95-mediated apoptosis. In an attempt to further characterize the effect of mercury on CD95-mediated apoptosis, several signaling components of the CD95 death pathway were analyzed to determine whether HgCl2 could modulate them. HgCl2 did not modulate CD95 expression; however, it did block CD95-induced caspase-3 activation. HgCl2 was not able to attenuate TNF-alpha-mediated apoptosis in U-937 cells, or ceramide-C6-mediated apoptosis in Jurkat cells, suggesting that mercury acts upstream of, or does not involve, these signals. Thus, inorganic mercury specifically attenuates CD95-mediated apoptosis likely by targeting a signaling component that is upstream of caspase-3 activation and downstream of CD95.[1]


  1. Protection against CD95-mediated apoptosis by inorganic mercury in Jurkat T cells. Whitekus, M.J., Santini, R.P., Rosenspire, A.J., McCabe, M.J. J. Immunol. (1999) [Pubmed]
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