Bleomycin induces apoptosis in human alveolar macrophages

R. F. Hamilton, L. Li, T. B. Felder, A. Holian

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Bleomycin (BLM) is an effective antineoplastic drug; however, cumulative dosage is often associated with inflammation that can progress to pulmonary fibrosis. The mechanisms by which this occurs are not understood, but they have been proposed to involve the alveolar macrophage (AM). In this study, we examined the in vitro effects of BLM on human AM cytotoxicity and the role of heat shock proteins (HSP or stress proteins) in this process. Although BLM did not cause marked necrosis, it caused significant DNA fragmentation detected by in situ DNA labeling and confirmed by BLM-induced DNA ladder formation after 24 h. The DNA fragmentation was significantly blocked by 10 and 50 μM ZnCl2, suggesting that BLM was inducing apoptosis. BLM did not alter intracellular protooncogene bcl-2 or glutathione levels. However, BLM significantly (50%) blocked HSP-72 expression by 4 h during a mild heat stress (39.8°C). This inhibition occurs without affecting mRNA levels (in situ hybridization) for HSP-72 or overall protein synthesis ([35S]methionine incorporation), suggesting that BLM is blocking the stress response relatively specifically and post-transcriptionally. In summary, these results suggest that BLM causes apoptosis in human AM in vitro that is preceded by the inhibition of HSP-72 induction that appears to be caused by a posttranscriptional mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L318-L325
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number3 13-3
StatePublished - 1995


  • deoxyribonucleic acid fragmentation
  • heat shock protein 72
  • stress proteins
  • zinc


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