Mechanism of silica-induced apoptosis in human alveolar macrophages

Rashi Iyer, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The mechanisms involved in the development of pulmonary silicosis have not been well defined, however most current evidence implicates a central role for alveolar macrophages in this process. We propose that the fibrotic potential of a particulate depends upon its ability to cause apoptosis in alveolar macrophage (AM). The overall goal of this study was to determine the mechanism of silica-induced apoptosis of AM. Human AM were treated with fibrogenic, poorly fibrogenic and nonfibrogenic model particulates, such as, silica, amorphous silica and titanium dioxide, respectively (equal surface area). Treatment with silica resulted in apoptosis in human AM as observed by morphology, DNA fragmentation and Cell Death ELISA assays. In contrast, amorphous silica and titanium dioxide demonstrated no significant apoptotic potential. To elucidate the possible mechanism by which silica causes apoptosis, we investigated the role of the scavenger receptor (SR) in silica-induced apoptosis. Cells were pretreated with and without SR ligand binding inhibitors, polyinosinic acid (Poly I), fucoidan and high density lipoprotein (HDL), prior to silica treatment. Pretreatment with Poly I and fucoidan resulted in significant inhibition of silica-induced apoptosis suggesting that silica-induced AM apoptosis is mediated via the SR. Further, we examined the involvement of interleukin converting enzyme (ICE) family of proteases in silica-mediated apoptosis. Silica activated ICE, Ich-1L, cpp32 beta and cleavage of PARP. Taken together, these results suggested that (1) fibrogenic particulates, such as, silica caused apoptosis of alveolar macrophages, (2) this apoptotic potential of fibrogenic particulates may be a critical factor in initiating an inflammatory response resulting in fibrosis, (3) silica-induced apoptosis of alveolar macrophages may be due to the interaction of silica particulates with the SR, and (4) silica-induced apoptosis involves the activation of the ICE family of proteases. An understanding of the molecular events involved in fibrogenic particulate-induced apoptosis may provide a useful insight into the mechanism involved in particulate-induced fibrosis.

Subject Area

Toxicology|Cellular biology

Recommended Citation

Iyer, Rashi, "Mechanism of silica-induced apoptosis in human alveolar macrophages" (1997). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9807054.