Maitotoxin (MTX) initiates cell death by sequentially activating 1) Ca2+ influx via non-selective cation channels, 2) uptake of vital dyes via formation of large pores, and 3) release of lactate dehydrogenase, an indication of cell lysis. MTX also causes formation of membrane blebs, which dramatically dilate during the cytolysis phase. To determine the role of phospholipase C (PLC) in the cell death cascade, U73122, a specific inhibitor of PLC, and U73343, an inactive analog, were examined on MTX-induced responses in bovine aortic endothelial cells.
Addition of either U73122 or U73343, prior to MTX, produced a concentration-dependent inhibition of the cell death cascade (IC50 ≈ 1.9 and 0.66 μM, respectively) suggesting that the effect of these agents was independent of PLC. Addition of U73343 shortly after MTX, prevented or attenuated the effects of the toxin, but addition at later times had little or no effect. Time-lapse videomicroscopy showed that U73343 dramatically altered the blebbing profile of MTX-treated cells. Specifically, U73343 blocked bleb dilation and converted the initial blebbing event into "zeiosis", a type of membrane blebbing commonly associated with apoptosis. Cells challenged with MTX and rescued by subsequent addition of U73343, showed enhanced caspase-3 activity 48 hr after the initial insult, consistent with activation of the apoptotic program.
Within minutes of MTX addition, endothelial cells die by oncosis. Rescue by addition of U73343 shortly after MTX showed that a small percentage of cells are destined to die by oncosis, but that a larger percentage survive; cells that survive the initial insult exhibit zeiosis and may ultimately die by apoptotic mechanisms.