CD95-mediated murine hepatic apoptosis requires an intact glutathione status



Agonistic engagement of the cytokine receptor CD95 in mice leads to activation of hepatic caspases, followed by massive hepatocyte apoptosis, acute liver failure, and death. This mechanism of cell death is thought to be associated with several human liver disorders. Because hepatic glutathione represents the major defense against toxic liver injury, we investigated its role in CD95-mediated liver failure, which represents a model for hyperinflammatory organ destruction. As a tool for modulating the liver glutathione status of mice in vivo, we used the GSH transferase substrate, phorone, which rapidly depleted hepatic glutathione in a dose-dependent manner. When GSH was depleted, CD95-initiated hepatic caspase-3–like activity and DNA fragmentation were completely blocked, and animals were protected from liver injury dose-dependently as assessed by histological examination and determination of liver enzymes in plasma. Conversely, repletion of hepatic glutathione by treatment with the permeable glutathione monoethylester restored susceptibility of GSH-depleted mice toward CD95-mediated liver injury. In contrast, the antioxidants, GSH, N-acetyl cysteine, α-tocopherol, butyl-hydroxytoluene, and catalase failed to do so. Animals treated once with phorone survived for more than 3 months after an otherwise lethal injection of the activating anti-CD95 antibody. We investigated the thiol sensitivity of recombinant caspase-3 in vitro and observed that its activity was dependent on the presence of a reducing agent such as GSH, while GSSG attenuated proteolytic activity. Based on our finding that CD95-mediated hepatocyte apoptosis requires an intact intracellular glutathione status, we propose that the activation of apoptosis-executing caspases is controlled by reduced glutathione.