Mechanism of metalloid-induced death inLeishmaniaspp.: Role of iron, reactive oxygen species, Ca2+, and glutathione

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There is growing evidence that metalloid-induced cell death in protozoan parasites is due to oxidative injury; however, the biochemical changes related to this event are not fully understood. Leishmania spp. demonstrated cross-resistance to two related metalloids, arsenic and antimony, and both metalloids induced cell death accompanied by cell shrinkage and DNA fragmentation that was preceded by an increase in reactive oxygen species. Both drugs caused mitochondrial dysfunction in terms of loss of membrane potential and a drop in ATP levels. Arsenic treatment resulted in an elevation of intracellular Ca2+ levels that did not occur with antimony exposure. Cellular glutathione level was reduced after antimony treatment but arsenic did not affect glutathione. Inhibition of Ca2+ influx during arsenic treatment reduced cell death, whereas supplementation of glutathione during antimony treatment rescued cell loss. Under iron-depleted conditions, the cytotoxic effects of arsenic and antimony did not occur and cell survival increased; in contrast, the presence of excess iron resulted in higher cell death. Therefore, this study provides a new possibility that iron can potentiate parasite death induced by metalloids like arsenic and antimony. In addition, an important observation is that the two similar metalloids produce toxicity by very different mechanisms.

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