Early release of mitochondrial cytochrome c and expression of mitochondrial epitope 7A6 with a porphyrin-derived photosensitizer: Bcl-2 and Bcl-X(L) overexpression do not prevent early mitochondrial events but still depress caspase activity
Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
Certain nonmetallic porphyrins have potent antitumor activity upon visible light irradiation. Treatment of HeLa cells with nanomolar amounts of the photochemo therapeutic agent verteporfin and red light mobilized caspases 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, and 9, caused degradation of specific caspase substrates, and resulted in morphologic changes consistent with apoptosis. Caspase processing was detectable by 1 hour after light irradiation. The mitochondrial 7A6 epitope, recognized by monoclonal antibody APO2.7, became accessible, and cytochrome c was detectable within the cytosolic fraction of cells treated with verteporfin immediately after light irradiation. The general caspase inhibitor benzyloxycarboyl-Val-Ala-Asp-fluoromethylketone did not prevent 7A6 expression produced by photosensitization at peptide concentrations which completely prevented caspase activation and cleavage of caspase-specific substrates. Enforced overexpression of Bcl-2 or Bcl-xL prevented cytochrome c release and 7A6 expression produced by ultraviolet B light treatment, but did not prevent cytochrome c release or 7A6 expression elicited by verteporfin photosensitization. Bcl-2 or Bcl-xL overexpression delayed morphologic changes, depressed caspase activation, and limited substrate degradation, but did not protect against loss of viability after verteporfin photosensitization. This observation indicates that cells overexpressing Bcl-2 or Bcl-xL exhibit resistance to caspase activation even after the appearance of cytochrome c in the cytosol. Porphyrin photosensitizers are effective chemotherapeutic agents that elicit primary proapoptotic mitochondrial events even in the setting of heightened Bcl-2 or Bcl-xL expression.