Methylmercury (MeHg) has been implicated to induce massive neurodegeneration by disruption of neuron-glia interactions besides a direct potent neurotoxicity. In the present study, we examined potential cytotoxic effects of MeHg on primary cultured rat microglia. Following treatment with a relatively low concentration (0.5 μM) of MeHg, microglia had induced cell death accompanied by DNA fragmentation and an activation of caspase-3-like protease. MeHg-induced microglial death was significantly suppressed by the caspase-3-like protease inhibitor benzyloxycarbonyl-Try-Val-Ala-Asp-fluoromethyl-ketone indicating the occurrence of caspase-3-like protease-executed apoptosis. The aspartic protease inhibitor pepstatin A had a partial but significant inhibitory effect on MeHg-induced microglial apoptosis. These results indicate that a relatively low concentration of MeHg predominantly induces caspase-3-like protease-executed apoptosis of microglia, while the endosomal/lysosomal system is also partially involved in the cell death pathway. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Clinical Neurology
- Developmental Biology