Hyperbaric oxygen induces apoptosis via a mitochondrial mechanism

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During therapeutic hyperbaric oxygenation lymphocytes are exposed to high partial pressures of oxygen. This study aimed to analyze the mechanism of apoptosis induction by hyperbaric oxygen. For intervals of 0.5–4 h Jurkat-T-cells were exposed to ambient air or oxygen atmospheres at 1–3 absolute atmospheres. Apoptosis was analyzed by phosphatidylserine externalization, caspase-3 activation and DNA-fragmentation using flow cytometry. Apoptosis was already induced after 30 min of hyperbaric oxygenation (HBO, P < 0.05). The death receptor Fas was downregulated. Inhibition of caspase-9 but not caspase-8 blocked apoptosis induction by HBO. Hyperbaric oxygen caused a loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and caspase-9 induction. The mitochondrial pro-survival protein Bcl-2 was upregulated, and antagonizing Bcl-2 function potentiated apoptosis induction by HBO. In conclusion, a single exposure to hyperbaric oxygenation induces lymphocyte apoptosis by a mitochondrial and not a Fas-related mechanism. Regulation of Fas and Bcl-2 may be regarded as protective measures of the cell in response to hyperbaric oxygen.

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