ATP depletion rather than mitochondrial depolarization mediates hepatocyte killing after metabolic inhibition

A. L. Nieminen, A. K. Saylor, B. Herman, J. J. Lemasters

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138 Scopus citations


The importance of ATP depletion and mitochondrial depolarization in the toxicity of cyanide, oligomycin, and carbonyl cyanide m- cholorophenylhydrazone (CCCP), an uncoupler, was evaluated in rat hepatocytes. Oligomycin, an inhibitor of the reversible mitochondrial ATP synthase (F1F0-adenosinetriphosphatase), caused dose-dependent cell killing with 0.1 μg/ml being the minimum concentration causing the maximum cell killing. Oligomycin also caused rapid ATP depletion without causing mitochondrial depolarization. Fructose (20 mM), a potent glycolytic substrate in liver, protected completely against oligomycin toxicity. CCCP (5 μM) also caused rapid killing of hepatocytes. Fructose retarded cell death caused by CCCP but failed to prevent lethal cell injury. Although oligomycin (1.0 μg/ml) was lethally toxic by itself, in the presence of fructose it protected completely against CCCP-induced cell killing. Cyanide (2.5 mM), an inhibitor of mitochondrial respiration, caused rapid cell killing that was reversed by fructose. CCCP completely blocked fructose protection against cyanide, causing mitochondrial depolarization and rapid ATP depletion. In the presence of fructose and cyanide, oligomycin protected cells against CCCP- induced ATP depletion and cell death but did not prevent mitochondrial depolarization. In every instance, cell killing was associated with ATP depletion, whereas protection against lethal cell injury was associated with preservation of ATP. In conclusion, protection by fructose against toxicity of cyanide, oligomycin, and CCCP was mediated by glycolytic ATP formation rather than by preservation of the mitochondrial membrane potential. These findings support the hypothesis that inhibition of cellular ATP formation is a crucial event in the progression of irreversible cell injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C67-C74
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number1 36-1
StatePublished - 1994


  • confocal microscopy
  • cyanide
  • fructose
  • hypoxia
  • mitochondrial membrane potential
  • oligomycin
  • tetramethylrhodamine methylester


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