Acquisition of mitochondrial dysregulation and resistance to mitochondrial-mediated apoptosis after genotoxic insult in normal human fibroblasts: A possible model for early stage carcinogenesis

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Cell Research








Chromium; Death-resistance; Early-stage carcinogenesis; Genotoxin; Mitochondria


Acquisition of death-resistance is critical in the evolution of neoplasia. Our aim was to model the early stages of carcinogenesis by examining intracellular alterations in cells that have acquired apoptosis-resistance after exposure to a complex genotoxin. We previously generated sub-populations of BJ-hTERT human diploid fibroblasts, which have acquired death-resistance following exposure to hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)], a broad-spectrum genotoxicant. Long-term exposure to certain forms of Cr(VI) is associated with respiratory carcinogenesis. Here, we report on the death-sensitivity of subclonal populations derived from clonogenic survivors of BJ-hTERT cells treated with 5μM Cr(VI) (DR1, DR2), or selected by dilution-based cloning without treatment (CC1). Following Cr(VI) treatment, CC1 cells downregulated expression of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2 and exhibited extensive expression of cleaved caspase 3. In contrast, the DR cells exhibited no cleaved caspase 3 expression and maintained expression of Bcl-2 following recovery from 24. h Cr(VI) exposure. The DR cells also exhibited attenuated mitochondrial-membrane depolarization and mitochondrial retention of cytochrome c and SMAC/DIABLO following Cr(VI) exposure. The DR cells exhibited less basal mtDNA damage, as compared to CC1 cells, which correlates with intrinsic (non-induced) death-resistance. Notably, there was no difference in p53 protein expression before or after treatment among all cell lines. Taken together, our data suggest the presence of more resilient mitochondria in death-resistant cells, and that death-resistance can be acquired in normal human cells early after genotoxin exposure. We postulate that resistance to mitochondrial-mediated cell death and mitochondrial dysregulation may be an initial phenotypic alteration observed in early stage carcinogenesis. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

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