Even though the erythroleukemia cell lines K562 and HEL do not express α1-adrenoceptors, some α1-adrenergic drugs influence both survival and differentiation of these cell lines. Since Ca2+ is closely related to cellular homeostasis, we examined the capacity of α1-adrenergic drugs to modulate the intracellular Ca2+ content in K562 cells. Because of morphological alterations of mitochondria following α1-adrenergic agonist treatment, we also scrutinized mitochondrial functions. In order to visualize the non-adrenoceptor binding site(s) of α1-adrenergic drugs in erythroleukemia cells, we evaluated the application of the fluorescent α1-adrenergic antagonist BODIPY® FL-Prazosin. We discovered that the α1-adrenergic agonists naphazoline, oxymetazoline and also the α1-adrenergic antagonist benoxathian are able to raise the intracellular Ca2+-content in K562 cells. Furthermore, we demonstrate that naphazoline treatment induces ROS-formation as well as an increase in Δψm in K562 cells. Using BODIPY® FL-Prazosin we were able to visualize the non-adrenoceptor binding site(s) of α1-adrenergic drugs in erythroleukemia cells. Interestingly, the SERCA-inhibitor thapsigargin appears to interfere with the binding of BODIPY® FL-Prazosin.
Our data suggest that the effects of α1-adrenergic drugs on erythroleukemia cells are mediated by a thapsigargin sensitive binding site, which controls the fate of erythroleukemia cells towards differentiation, senescence and cell death through modulation of intracellular Ca2+.