The cellular and molecular mechanisms for neutropenia in Barth syndrome

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Barth syndrome (BTHS), a rare, X-linked, recessive disease, is characterized by neutropenia and cardiomyopathy. BTHS is caused by loss-of-function mutations of the tafazzin (TAZ) gene. We developed a model of BTHS by transfecting human HL60 myeloid progenitor cells with TAZ-specific shRNAs. Results demonstrate a significant downregulation in TAZ expression, mimicking the effects of naturally occurring truncation mutations in TAZ. Flow cytometry analyses of cells with TAZ-specific, but not scrambled, shRNAs demonstrate nearly twofold increase in the proportion of annexin V-positive cells and significantly increased dissipation of mitochondrial membrane potential as determined by DIOC6 staining. Transfection of TAZ-specific shRNA had similar effects in U937 myeloid cells but not in lymphoid cell lines. Further studies in HL60 myeloid progenitor cells revealed aberrant release of cytochrome c from mitochondria and significantly elevated levels of activated caspase-3 in response to TAZ knockdown. Treatment with caspase-specific inhibitor zVAD-fmk resulted in substantially reduced apoptosis to near-normal levels. These data suggest that neutropenia in BTHS is attributable to increased dissipation of mitochondrial membrane potential, aberrant release of cytochrome c, activation of caspase-3, and accelerated apoptosis of myeloid progenitor cells, and that this defect can be partially restored in vitro by treatment with caspase-specific inhibitors.

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