Apoptosis and necrosis following exposure of U937 cells to increasing concentrations of hydrogen peroxide: The effect of the poly(ADP- ribose)polymerase inhibitor 3-aminobenzamide

Letizia Palomba, Piero Sestili, Marta Columbaro, Elisabetta Falcieri, Orazio Cantoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


A 3-hr exposure of U937 cells to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) followed by a 6-hr posttreatment incubation in fresh culture medium promotes apoptosis or necrosis, depending on the oxidant concentration. Addition of 3- aminobenzamide (3AB) during the recovery phase prevented necrosis and caused apoptosis. 3AB did not, however, affect the apoptotic response of cells treated with apogenic concentrations of H2O2. Cells exposed for 3 hr to 1.5 mM H2O2, while showing some signs of suffering, maintained a normal nuclear organization and good organelle morphology. At the biochemical level, the oxidant promoted the formation of Mb-sized DNA fragments and rapidly depleted both the adenine nucleotide and non-protein sulphydryl pools, which did not recover during posttreatment incubation in the absence or presence of 3AB. These results allow a novel interpretation of the concentration-dependent switch from apoptosis to necrosis. We propose that H2O2 activates the apoptotic response at the early times of peroxide exposure and that this process can be completed, or inhibited, during the posttreatment incubation phase. Inhibition of apoptosis leads to necrosis and can be prevented by 3AB via a mechanism independent of inhibition of poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase. As a corollary, the necrotic response promoted by high concentrations of H2O2 in U937 cells appears to be the result of specific inhibition of the late steps of apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1743-1750
Number of pages8
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 1999



  • 3-aminobenzamide
  • Apoptosis
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Necrosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology

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