In this article, the effects of allicin, a biological active compound of garlic, on HL60 and U937 cell lines were examined. Allicin induced growth inhibition and elicited apoptotic events such as blebbing, mitochondrial membrane depolarization, cytochrome c release into the cytosol, activation of caspase 9 and caspase 3 and DNA fragmentation. Pretreatment of HL60 cells with cyclosporine A, an inhibitor of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP), inhibited allicin-treated cell death. HL60 cell survival after 1 h pretreatment with cyclosporine A, followed by 16 h in presence of allicin (5 μM) was ∼80% compared to allicin treatment alone (∼50%). Also N-acetyl cysteine, a reduced glutathione (GSH) precursor, prevented cell death. The effects of cyclosporine A and N-acetyl cysteine suggest the involvement of mPTP and intracellular GSH level in the cytotoxicity. Indeed, allicin depleted GSH in the cytosol and mitochondria, and buthionine sulfoximine, a specific inhibitor of GSH synthesis, significantly augmented allicin-induced apoptosis. In HL60 cells treated with allicin (5 μM, 30 min) the redox state for 2GSH/oxidized glutathione shifted from EGSH -240 to -170 mV. The same shift was observed in U937 cells treated with allicin at a higher concentration for a longer period of incubation (20 μM, 2 h). The apoptotic events induced by various concentrations of allicin correlate to intracellular GSH levels in the two cell types tested (HL60: 3.7 nmol/106 cells; U937: 7.7 nmol/106 cells). The emerging mechanistic basis for the antiproliferative function of allicin, therefore, involves the activation of the mitochondrial apoptotic pathway by GSH depletion and by changes in the intracellular redox status.
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