Toxicological sciences : an official journal of the Society of Toxicology

BNIP3 upregulation by ERK and JNK mediates cadmium-induced necrosis in neuronal cells.

PMID 24824807


Cadmium (Cd) is a toxic heavy metal that may cause neurological disorders. We studied the mechanism underlying Cd-mediated cell death in neuronal cells. In Cd-induced neurotoxicity, caspase-3 was only modestly activated, and accordingly, zVAD-fmk, a pan-caspase inhibitor, partially attenuated cell death. However, pretreatment with Necrox-2 or Necrox-5, two novel necrosis inhibitors, suppressed cell death more markedly compared with pretreatment with zVAD-fmk. Moreover, the necrosis inhibitors did not prevent cleavage of caspase-3. These results indicate that caspase-independent necrosis is more prevalent in Cd-induced neurotoxicity. Bcl-2 and adenovirus E1B-19 kDa-interacting protein 3 (BNIP3) has been reported to be related to caspase-independent cell death. Cd treatment caused a dramatic upregulation of BNIP3 mRNA and protein levels in vitro and in vivo. Furthermore, knockdown of BNIP3 greatly inhibited Cd-induced cell death. Importantly, BNIP3 RNAi decreased lactate dehydrogenase release and the percentage of propidium iodide-positive cells, two markers of necrotic cell death due to rupture of the cell membrane, whereas it had no effect on activation of caspase-3 in Cd-treated cells. These data suggest that BNIP3 mediates caspase-independent necrosis, but not apoptosis. Moreover, our results indicate that induction of BNIP3 by Cd may not be related to HIF-1 which is generally regarded as a mediator responsible for BNIP3 expression. Finally, we show that mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs) are activated by Cd in vitro and in vivo; ERK and JNK promote BNIP3 upregulation and subsequent necrosis. Taken together, our results suggest BNIP3, upregulated by activation of ERK and JNK, mediates Cd-induced necrosis in neuronal cells.