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Int. J. Cancer: 71, 231–236 (1997)
r 1997 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Publication of the International Union Against Cancer
Publication de l’Union Internationale Contre le Cancer
rIFN-g-ACTIVATED RAT NEUTROPHILS INDUCE TUMOR CELL APOPTOSIS
BY NITRIC OXIDE
Tetsuro UCHIDA1, Takao YAMASHITA1*, Akemi ARAKI1, Hiroshi WATANABE2 and Fujiro SENDO1
of Immunology and Parasitology, Yamagata University School of Medicine, Yamagata, Japan
2Department of Nursing, Yamagata University School of Medicine, Yamagata, Japan
1Department
We have previously shown that 1) neutrophils activated
with various cytokines, including rat recombinant interferon
g (rIFN-g), inhibit tumor cell growth and that 2) nitric oxide
(NO) is the effector molecule in tumor inhibition by rIFN-gstimulated rat peritoneal exudate neutrophils. In this study,
we examined the nature of tumor cell death induced by rat
peritoneal neutrophils activated by rIFN-g in order to clarify
the mechanism of apoptosis in neoplastic tumor cell death.
DNA of 3 syngeneic rat tumor cell lines was significantly
fragmented within 3 hr of incubation in the presence of rIFNg-activated neutrophils, and this effect was dependent on
both the concentration of rIFN- g and the number of neutrophils. This DNA fragmentation was inhibited by L-N-(1iminoethyl)-ornithine (L-NIO), a NO synthase inhibitor, but
not by superoxide dismutase (SOD). Tumor cells treated
with the activated neutrophils were shown by electron microscopy to be apoptotic, exhibiting necrotic features with a
longer incubation. On the other hand, cytolysis of tumor cells,
as determined by a [3H]-uridine release assay, was first
observed only at 24 hr of incubation with the rIFN- g-activated neutrophils. Taken together, our results suggest that
tumor cell apoptosis by activated neutrophils is NO-dependent and that apoptotic tumor cells undergo necrosis as a
secondary process. We suggest that tumor cell apoptosis
induced by activated neutrophils plays an important role in
regulation of neoplastic tumor cell growth and death in vivo.
Int. J. Cancer 71:231–236, 1997.
r 1997 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
We have previously shown that neutrophils activated by various
immunomodulators (Kimura et al., 1987; Fukase et al., 1987) and
cytokines (Inoue and Sendo, 1983; Kuzu, 1988; Hayashi et al.,
1988; Miyake et al., 1988) exhibit cytotoxic activity against tumor
cells. Human neutrophils treated with interferon gamma (IFN-g)
were particularly prone to inhibit the growth of various tumor cells
(Miyake et al., 1988). We have also reported that recombinant rat
interferon gamma (rIFN-g)-activated rat neutrophils inhibit the
growth of tumor cells in vitro and that nitric oxide (NO) is the
effector molecule for cytostasis of tumor cell (Yamashita et al., this
issue). There are 2 forms of cell death, apoptosis and necrosis
(Wyllie et al., 1980). Apoptosis plays a pivotal role in the
mechanisms of various types of cell death and is involved in
regulation of cell number and elimination of damaged cells in
tissues and organs. Apoptosis is characterized by specific morphological features, such as reduced cell volume, nuclear and cytoplasmic condensation and formation of apoptotic bodies. DNA of
apoptotic cells is fragmented at the molecular level by a specific
endonuclease (Wyllie et al., 1980; Gerschenson and Rotello, 1992).
The balance between tumor cell proliferation and spontaneous cell
death via apoptosis plays an important role in the regulation of
neoplastic tumor cell growth. Apoptosis is involved in tumor cell
death induced by various types of chemotherapeutic agents in vitro
(Barry et al., 1990; Walker et al., 1991; Ling et al., 1993).
We have focused our attention on the nature of tumor cell death
induced by rIFN-g-activated rat neutrophils. We show that tumor
cell apoptosis elicited by rIFN-g-activated neutrophils is NOdependent, and that apoptotic tumor cells undergo necrosis as a
secondary process.
MATERIAL AND METHODS
Culture media and cytokines
rIFN-g and monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to rIFN-g were
kindly donated by Mrs. M. de Labie (TNO Health Research,
Rijswijk, The Netherlands). N-iminoethyl-L-ornithine (L-NIO)
(McCall et al., 1991) was purchased from Alexis (Laufelfingen,
Switzerland). Superoxide anion dismutase (SOD) was purchased
from Wako (Tokyo, Japan). RPMI-1640 medium (GIBCO, Grand
Island, NY) was supplemented with 10% fetal calf serum (FCS)
(Whittaker, Walkersville, MD), 100 U/ml penicillin (Banyu, Tokyo, Japan), 100 µg/ml streptomycin (Meiji Seika, Tokyo, Japan), 2
mg/ml NaHCO3 (Wako) and HEPES (Dojin, Kumamoto, Japan).
The hypotonic detergent buffer for tumor cell lysis consisted of 10
mM Tris-HCl, 1 mM EDTA (Wako) and 0.2% Triton X-100
(Wako).
Animals
Specific pathogen-free (SPF) WKA/Hkm rats obtained from
Funabashi (Shizuoka, Japan) were kept in an environment free of
specific pathogens. Ten to 12-week-old female rats were used in all
experiments.
Tumor cells
We used KMT-17 (a 20-methylcholanthrene-induced sarcoma of
WKA/Hok rats), WRT-7 (a myelomonocytic leukemia cell line of
WKA/Hok rats) and KDH-8 (a dimethyl-azobenzanthraceneinduced liver cell cancer in WKA/Hok rats) as target cells. These
tumor cells were maintained in 25-cm2 culture flasks (Nunc,
Roskilde, Denmark) in RPMI-1640 medium.
Rat neutrophils
To obtain peritoneal exudated cells including neutrophils, 15 ml
of sterilized 3% proteose peptone (Difco, Detroit, MI) were
injected into the peritoneal cavity. Twelve hours later, the same
volume of proteose peptone was injected again, and 3 hr later,
exudate cells were collected in Eagle’s minimum essential medium
(MEM) (Nissui, Tokyo, Japan). Neutrophils were purified from
exudate cells by density gradient centrifugation at 400g on
colloidal silica (Percoll; Pharmacia, Uppsala, Sweden) for 60 min
at room temperature, according to the method of Inoue and Sendo
(1983). The bottom layer containing neutrophils was collected, and
after lysis of red blood cells using 0.15 M Tris-0.75% NH4Cl, cells
were washed and resuspended in culture medium. The purity of the
neutrophil suspensions was .95%, as determined by May-Giemsa
Contract grant sponsor: Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of
Japan, contract grant number 06281117.
*Correspondence to: Dr. Takao Yamashita, Department of Immunology
and Parasitology, Yamagata University School of Medicine, 2-2-2 Iida
Nishi, Yamagata 990-23, Japan. Fax: 81-236-28-5267.
E-mail: tyamashi@med.id.yamagata-u.ac.jp
Received 5 June 1996; revised 16 December 1996
232
UCHIDA ET AL.
FIGURE 1 – DNA fragmentation of 3 tumor cell lines induced by rat
neutrophils activated with rIFN-g. Tumor cells (a, KMT-17; b, WRT-7;
c, KDH-8) (4 3 104 cells/well) were incubated with rIFN-g-activated
neutrophils (4 3 105 or 1 3 106 cells/well) in 48-well plates for the
indicated periods of time. DNA fragmentation of tumor cells was
determined by the DNA fragmentation assay described in Material and
Methods. Results of 4 different experiments are expressed as means 6
SD. *p , 0.001; **p , 0.05.
staining. The viability of neutrophils was shown to be .99% using
the Trypan blue dye exclusion test.
DNA fragmentation assay
The method described by Greenblatt and Elias (1992) was used
for quantitation of DNA fragmentation. Tumor cells (3.0 3 106
cells/flask) were labeled with [3H]-thymidine (5 µCi/ml) in a
25-cm2 culture flask (Nunc) overnight, and then tumor cells were
washed free of [3H]-thymidine with 2 washings in RPMI-1640
medium and resuspended in culture medium. Rat neutrophils
(4.0 3 105 cells/well–2.0 3 106 cells/well) were incubated in the
presence or absence of rIFN-g (0.1–100 U/ml) in 48-well plates
(Sumitomo Bakelite, Tokyo, Japan) at 37°C for 1 hr in a humidified
atmosphere of 5% CO2 and 95% air. After addition of labeled tumor
cells (4.0 3 104 cells/well), the reaction mixtures were incubated
for varying periods of time. In some experiments, in order to
determine effector molecules, tumor cells were incubated for 1 hr
with rIFN-g-treated neutrophils in the presence of L-NIO or SOD
in 48-well plates at 37°C in a humidified atmosphere of 5% CO2
and 95% air. An anti-rIFN-g MAb was also added to the mixture of
neutrophil preparations and rIFN-g. At various intervals, cells
exposed to each experimental condition were collected and washed
twice with phosphate-buffered saline (PBS), and then lysed in a
hypotonic detergent buffer for 30 min at room temperature. Lysates
were centrifuged at 12,000g for 30 min at room temperature. The
radioactivity of [3H]-thymidine in supernatants and pellets was
quantitated using a liquid scintillation analyzer (Packard, Tri-Carb
1500; Meriden, CT). The percentage of DNA fragmentation was
calculated from the ratio of fragmented DNA to total (fragmented 1 intact) DNA. The following formula was used for the
calculation.
% DNA fragmentation
5
radioactivity in supernatants (fragmented DNA)
radioactivity in supernatants
radioactivity in pellets
1 (intact chromatin DNA)
(fragmented DNA)
3 100
Cytolysis assay
Tumor cell cytostasis was determined by a previously reported
method (Inoue and Sendo, 1983). Briefly, tumor cells (3.0 3 106
cells/flask) were labelled for 4 hr with [3H]-uridine (5 µCi/ml) in a
25-cm2 culture flask, then washed free of [3H]-uridine with the
culture medium. To quantitate cytolysis of tumor cells, neutrophils
TUMOR CELL APOPTOSIS INDUCED BY rIFN-g-ACTIVATED NEUTROPHILS
233
(2.0 3
cells/ml and 5.0 3
cells/ml) were cultured with
tumor cells (2.0 3 105 cells/ml) in the presence or absence of
rIFN-g (10 U/ml) in 96-well plates (Sumitomo Bakelite) at 37°C
for various intervals in a humidified atmosphere of 5% CO2 and
95% air. Plates were then centrifuged at 400g for 5 min, and the
radioactivity of supernatants was determined by means of a liquid
scintillation analyzer. The percentage of cytolysis was calculated
using the following formula:
106
% lysis 5
106
experimental release 2 spontaneous release
maximal release 2 spontaneous release
3 100 (%)
Electron microscopy
For electron microscopy, we used a Hitachi H-700H electron
microscope (Tokyo, Japan) following a method described elsewhere (Koike et al., 1993). Briefly, the specimens were immersed
in sodium cacodylate buffer (pH 7.4, 0.1 M) containing 2.5%
glutaraldehyde. Samples were postfixed with 1% osmium tetroxide
in the same buffer and stained en block with 2% uranyl acetate.
Next, dehydration of samples was carried out using 60, 70, 80, 90,
95, 97 and 99.5% graded ethanol and propylene monoxide, and
samples were then embedded in Epon 812 resin. Serial sections of
each specimen were cut with a diamond knife, mounted on formvar
film-coated single-slot grids and then stained with uranyl acetate
and lead citrate aqueous solutions.
FIGURE 2 – Inhibitory effect of MAbs to rIFN-g on DNA fragmentation of tumor cells (KMT-17) induced by rIFN-g-activated neutrophils.
Tumor cells (4 3 104 cells/well) were incubated with rIFN-g-activated
neutrophils (1 3 106 cells/well) in the presence of anti-rIFN-g MAbs
(12.5 and 50 µg/ml) in 48-well plates for 24 hr. Results of 4 different
experiments are expressed as means 6 SD. *p , 0.05.
Statistical analysis
All data are expressed as means 6 SD. When comparing
different tumor cell conditions, we used an unpaired, two-sided
t-test to assess statistical significance. Significance is a calculated p
value of ,0.05.
RESULTS
Induction of tumor cell apoptosis by rIFN-g-activated rat
neutrophils
We have previously shown that rIFN-g-activated rat neutrophils
inhibit growth of tumor cells in vitro (Yamashita et al., this issue).
In order to clarify the biological characteristics of this inhibition,
we investigated whether these neutrophils induce DNA fragmentation of 3 types of tumor cells, KMT-17, WRT-7 and KDH-8. Figure
1a shows the time course of DNA fragmentation of [3H]-thymidinelabeled KMT-17 cells incubated with rIFN-g (10 U/ml)-treated
neutrophils. DNA fragmentation was detected as early as 3 hr from
the start of incubation at an effector-to-target ratio (E/T ratio) of 25
in the presence of rIFN-g-treated neutrophils compared with target
cells alone. The extent of fragmentation was directly related to the
incubation time and the E/T ratio. On the other hand, DNA
fragmentation of tumor cells incubated in the presence of rIFN-g
alone or medium-treated neutrophils remained low during the
entire test period. After 24 hr of incubation, the amount of DNA
fragmentation at an E/T ratio of 25 in the presence of rIFN-g was
approximately 60% of the cellular DNA and was about 4 times the
control level. Figure 1b and c show DNA fragmentation of the 2
other tumor cell types (WRT-7 and KDH-8), which were incubated
with rIFN-g (10 U/ml)-treated neutrophils. Fragmentation patterns
of both types were extremely similar to that of KMT-17, as shown
in Figure 1a. These findings indicate that tumor cell apoptosis was
induced by these activated neutrophils. We then examined the
inhibitory effect of anti-rIFN-g MAb on DNA fragmentation of
tumor cells (KMT-17) induced by these activated neutrophils.
Although DNA fragmentation was 60% at an E/T ratio of 25 in the
presence of rIFN-g (10 U/ml), it was reduced to ,30% in the
presence of anti-rIFN-g MAb, indicating that tumor cell DNA
fragmentation was really induced by rIFN-g (Fig. 2).
We next examined what effect the concentration of rIFN-g used
for neutrophil activation had on the DNA fragmentation of
KMT-17 tumor cells. As shown in Figure 3, when the E/T ratio was
FIGURE 3 – rIFN-g concentration dependence of DNA fragmentation of tumor cells (KMT-17) induced by rIFN-g-activated neutrophils.
Tumor cells (4 3 104 cells/well) were incubated with neutrophils
(4 3 105 cells/well) activated with various concentrations of rIFN-g
(0.1, 1, 10 and 100 U/ml) in 48-well plates for the indicated periods of
time. DNA fragmentation of tumor cells was determined by the DNA
fragmentation assay described in Material and Methods. Results of 4
different experiments are expressed as means 6 SD. *p , 0.001.
10 at 24 hr of incubation, dependence on the rIFN-g concentration
was observed. DNA fragmentation induced by neutrophils activated with various rIFN-g concentrations reached a plateau at 10
U/ml. Moreover, almost the same patterns of dependence were
observed with the other 2 cell lines (data not shown). In the
following experiments, 10 U/ml rIFN-g were used for neutrophil
activation.
Effect of a NO synthase inhibitor, L-NIO and SOD on induction
of DNA fragmentation in tumor cells
We then tried to determine which effector molecules induced
DNA fragmentation in these cells. We focused on nitric oxide
234
UCHIDA ET AL.
(NO), which had exhibited antitumor activity in our previous work
(Yamashita et al., this issue). Figure 4 shows the effect of L-NIO
and SOD on DNA fragmentation of KMT-17 tumor cells induced
by the activated neutrophils.
L-NIO is a novel, potent, rapid-in-onset and irreversible inhibitor of NO synthase (NOS) in phagocytic cells, and SOD is a
scavenger of superoxide anion (O22 ). Tumor cells were cultured
with rIFN-g-activated neutrophils at an E/T ratio of 25 in the
presence of L-NIO (1 and 10 µM) or SOD (5 and 50 U/ml). DNA
fragmentation of these cells was not inhibited by SOD at either 12
or 24 hr. However, in the presence of L-NIO in cocultures, marked
inhibition was noted at 12 hr from the start of incubation, and this
effect continued until 24 hr. There were similar inhibition patterns
using L-NIO with the other 2 types of tumor cells (data not shown).
No cytotoxicity was demonstrable using L-NIO or SOD on tumor
cell cultures alone at the concentrations used.
Electron microscopic features of tumor cells treated
with rIFN-g-activated neutrophils
In order to confirm that tumor cell apoptosis had indeed
occurred, we used electron microscopy to examine the morphological features of tumor cells treated in various ways. Untreated
KMT-17 cells, as shown in Figure 5a, were characterized by a large
nucleus and numerous well-developed mitochondria. Figure 5b
shows typical morphological features of tumor cells incubated for
24 hr with rIFN-g-treated rat neutrophils at an E/T ratio of 25. Cells
with an apoptotic nucleus appeared to have a cell membrane which
remained intact. The cell shape had become rounded, and the
nucleus was divided into several apoptotic nuclear fragments.
Mitochondria were markedly reduced in number and their shape
was atrophic. Cytoplasmic vacuolization was also seen. These
features are characteristic of apoptotic changes, but the reduced
number of mitochondria and the existence of cytoplasmic vacuolization suggest the start of secondary necrotic changes. Figure 5c
shows a representative feature of tumor cells treated with rIFN-gactivated rat neutrophils for a period longer than 24 hr, at which
time tumor cells shown in Figure 5b were obtained. The membrane
was disrupted with the collapse of cellular organelles and showed
typical characteristics of necrosis. Thus, the electron microscopy
findings suggest that apoptosis of tumor cells was followed by
secondary necrosis.
Induction of secondary tumor cell necrosis by rIFN-g-activated
rat neutrophils
As described above, rIFN-g-activated rat neutrophils induced
tumor cell apoptosis. However, the electron microscopic results
described above suggest that tumor cells which had undergone
apoptosis further underwent necrosis (Fig. 5). To evaluate necrosis
of tumor cells treated with rIFN-g-activated rat neutrophils, we
performed a [3H]-uridine release assay, as described in Material
and Methods. [3H]-uridine-labeled tumor cells were cultured with
rIFN-g-activated rat neutrophils. At 12 hr from the start of
incubation, at which time DNA fragmentation had already started
to appear (Fig. 1), cytolysis of KMT-17 tumor cells remained low
(Fig. 6). After 24 hr of incubation, cytolysis of tumor cells at an E/T
ratio of 25 in the presence of rIFN-g had increased to approximately 20%. This result indicates that tumor cell necrosis is
initiated later than apoptosis, suggesting that the former is a
secondary process.
DISCUSSION
We have shown that rat peritoneal exudate neutrophils stimulated with rIFN-g induce NO-dependent tumor cell apoptosis.
There have been many reports demonstrating that neutrophils exert
a cytotoxic effect on various tumors (Kimura et al., 1987; Fukase et
al., 1987; Inoue and Sendo, 1983; Kuzu, 1988; Hayashi et al.,
1988; Miyake et al., 1988; Yamashita et al., this issue). As for the
effector molecules responsible, superoxide, hydrogen peroxide
(Morikawa et al., 1985) and cationic proteins (Hayashi et al., 1988;
Clark et al., 1976) have all been reported as possible candidates.
However, little is known about the precise mechanisms involved.
Our present results clearly indicate that NO can also be considered
an effector molecule, especially when cytolysis occurs after long
incubation periods (Inoue and Sendo, 1983), and when the form of
tumor cell death is apoptosis induced by activated neutrophils. Our
results are in accordance with those of studies using macrophages,
showing that these cells induce apoptosis of a target cell, P815,
through NO-dependent mechanisms (Cui et al., 1994). Although in
that study, apoptosis of another type of target cell, L929, was
induced via NO-independent mechanisms (Cui et al., 1994), in our
present experiments, neutrophil-mediated apoptosis of all 3 target
cell types was NO-dependent. Further experiments using other
FIGURE 4 – Effect of L-NIO and SOD on DNA fragmentation of tumor cells (KMT-17) induced by rat neutrophils activated with rIFN-g. Tumor
cells (4 3 105 cells/well) were incubated with neutrophils (1 3 106 cells/well) in the presence of rIFN-g (10 U/ml) together with L-NIO (1 and 10
µM) or SOD (5 and 50 U/ml) in 48-well plates for the indicated periods of time. DNA fragmentation of tumor cells was determined by the DNA
fragmentation assay described in Material and Methods. Results of 4 different experiments are expressed as means 6 SD. *p , 0.001.
TUMOR CELL APOPTOSIS INDUCED BY rIFN-g-ACTIVATED NEUTROPHILS
235
FIGURE 5 – Electron micrograph of tumor cells (KMT-17) incubated for 24 hr with rIFN-g-activated neutrophils. (a) Representative structure of
untreated KMT-17, characterized by a large nucleus and numerous well-developed mitochondria. (b) Typical morphological features of KMT-17
cell apoptosis. Cells with an apoptotic nucleus retained their cell membrane intact. (c) Typical of necrotic KMT-17 cells, the cell membrane was
disrupted with the collapse of cellular organelles.
FIGURE 6 – Cytolysis of tumor cells (KMT-17) induced by neutrophils activated with rIFN-g. Tumor cells (2 3 104 cells/well) were
incubated with neutrophils (2 3 105 or 5 3 105 cells/well) in the
presence of rIFN-g (10 U/ml) in 96-well plates for the indicated
periods of time. Cytolysis of tumor cells was determined by the
[3H]-uridine release assay described in Material and Methods. Results
of 4 different experiments are expressed as means 6 SD. *p , 0.05.
target cells may be required to ascertain whether rIFN-g-activated
neutrophil-mediated tumor cytotoxicity is always governed by
NO-dependent mechanisms or whether other effector molecules are
also involved, as in the case of macrophage-mediated tumor
cytotoxicity.
Concerning the relationship between apoptosis and necrosis of
tumor cells induced by rIFN-g-activated neutrophils, assays of
DNA fragmentation and cytolysis as well as electron microscopy
clearly show that apoptosis occurs as a primary process and is
followed by necrosis (Figs. 1, 5). As already shown in many
reports, neutrophils produce various reactive oxygen intermediates.
With respect to the possible involvement of active oxygen forms
other than NO, our result that SOD did not inhibit the reaction
suggests that O22 was not responsible for induction of tumor cell
apoptosis by the rIFN-g-activated neutrophils. Furthermore, this
also suggests that another powerful oxidant, peroxynitrite anion
(ONOO2 ), which is produced by reaction of NO with O22
(Beckman et al., 1990; Koppenol et al., 1992), and which plays a
pivotal role in various types of tissue injuries (Beckman et al.,
1990; Beckman, 1991; Matheis et al., 1992), is not involved in the
tumor cell apoptosis observed in our present experiments.
In our previous report, we demonstrated that SOD not only failed
to inhibit tumor cytostasis but actually enhanced it (Yamashita et
al., this issue). However, in these experiments, this was not
observed. This discrepancy may be explained as follows. In the
236
UCHIDA ET AL.
previous study, enhancement of cytostasis by SOD was observed
only when E/T ratios were ,10, suggesting that at high effector-totarget ratios, the amount of NO produced by activated neutrophils
was too large to be significantly influenced by inhibition of the
reaction (NO 1 O22 = ONOO2 ) with SOD. On the other hand,
tumor cell DNA fragmentation, as an indicator of apoptosis
induced by rIFN-g-activated neutrophils, could be observed at an
E/T ratio of 25, at which point the effect of SOD on the total
amount of NO released is negligible. Alternatively, the mechanisms
of cytostasis and apoptosis may differ slightly from each other.
These factors may account for the lack of enhancement of
apoptosis of tumor cells by addition of SOD, as well as for the
difference between our present results and those of the previous
report. The result on DNA fragmentation in one tumor cell line
(KMT-17) which was induced after a short incubation time (3 hr)
needs to be discussed further. Indeed, it was previously shown that
in vitro production of NO requires more than 3 hr of incubation
(Miles et al., 1995). In a preliminary experiment, the amount of NO
released by peritoneal neutrophils increased slightly at 3 hr of
incubation in the presence of IFN-g (data not shown). This result
may explain the above-mentioned result that DNA fragmentation
of tumor cells started after 3 hr of incubation.
Experiments are underway to further explore the possible mechanisms of tumor cell apoptosis elicited by activated neutrophils.
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