Background: Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)-activated kinase 1 (TAK1) is a key regulator of signal cascades of TNF-α receptor and TLR4, and can induce NF-κB activation for preventing cell apoptosis and eliciting inflammation response. Results: TAK1 inhibitor (TAKI) can decrease the cell viability of murine bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDM), RAW264.7 and BV-2 cells, but not dermal microvascular endothelial cells, normal human epidermal keratinocytes, THP-1 monocytes, human retinal pigment epithelial cells, microglia CHME3 cells, and some cancer cell lines (CL1.0, HeLa and HCT116). In BMDM, TAKI-induced caspase activation and cell apoptosis were enhanced by lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Moreover, TAKI treatment increased the cytosolic and mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, and ROS scavengers NAC and BHA can inhibit cell death caused by TAKI. In addition, RIP1 inhibitor (necrostatin-1) can protect cells against TAKI-induced mitochondrial ROS production and cell apoptosis. We also observed the mitochondrial membrane potential loss after TAKI treatment and deterioration of oxygen consumption upon combination with LPS. Notably TNF-α neutralization antibody and inhibitor enbrel can decrease the cell death caused by TAKI. Conclusions: TAKI-induced cytotoxicity is cell context specific, and apoptosis observed in macrophages is dependent on the constitutive autocrine action of TNF-α for RIP1 activation and ROS production.
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