BACKGROUND: Overdose propofol treatment with a prolong time causes injury to multiple cell types; however, its molecular mechanisms remain unclear. Activation of glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3β is proapoptotic under death stimuli. The authors therefore hypothesize that propofol overdose induces macrophage apoptosis through GSK-3β. METHODS: Phagocytic analysis by uptake of Staphylococcus aureus showed the effects of propofol overdose on murine macrophages RAW264.7 and BV2 and primary human neutrophils in vitro. The authors further investigated cell apoptosis in vitro and in vivo, lysosomal membrane permeabilization, and the loss of mitochondrial transmembrane potential (MTP) by propidium iodide, annexin V, acridine orange, and rhodamine 123 staining, respectively. Protein analysis identified activation of apoptotic signals, and pharmacologic inhibition and genetic knockdown using lentiviral-based short hairpin RNA were further used to clarify their roles. RESULTS: A high dose of propofol caused phagocytic inhibition and apoptosis in vitro for 24 h (25 μg/ml, in triplicate) and in vivo for 6 h (10 mg/kg/h, n = 5 for each group). Propofol induced lysosomal membrane permeabilization and MTP loss while stabilizing MTP and inhibiting caspase protected cells from mitochondrial apoptosis. Lysosomal cathepsin B was required for propofol-induced lysosomal membrane permeabilization, MTP loss, and apoptosis. Propofol decreased antiapoptotic Bcl-2 family proteins and then caused proapoptotic Bcl-2-associated X protein (Bax) activation. Propofol-activated GSK-3β and inhibiting GSK-3β prevented Mcl-1 destabilization, MTP loss, and lysosomal/mitochondrial apoptosis. Forced expression of Mcl-1 prevented the apoptotic effects of propofol. Decreased Akt was important for GSK-3β activation caused by propofol. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest an essential role of GSK-3β in propofol-induced lysosomal/mitochondrial apoptosis.
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