Tissue transglutaminase and apoptosis: Sense and antisense transfection studies with human neuroblastoma cells

Gerry Melino, Margherita Annicchiarico-Petruzzelli, Lucia Piredda, Eleonora Candi, Vittorio Gentile, Peter J A Davies, Mauro Piacentini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this report, we show that the overexpression of tissue transglutaminase (tTG) in the human neuroblastoma cell line SK-N-BE(2) renders these neural crest-derived cells highly susceptible to death by apoptosis. Cells transfected with a full-length tTG cDNA, under the control of a constitutive promoter, show a drastic reduction in proliferative capacity paralleled by a large increase in cell death rate. The dying tTG-transfected cells exhibit both cytoplasmic and nuclear changes characteristic of cells undergoing apoptosis. The tTG-transfected cells express high Bcl-2 protein levels as well as phenotypic neural cell adhesion molecule markers (NCAM and neurofilaments) of cells differentiating along the neuronal pathway. In keeping with these findings, transfection of neuroblastoma cells with an expression vector containing segments of the human tTG cDNA in antisense orientation resulted in a pronounced decrease of both spontaneous and retinoic acid (RA)-induced apoptosis. We also present evidence that (i) the apoptotic program of these neuroectodermal cells is strictly regulated by RA and (ii) cell death by apoptosis in the human neuroblastoma SK-N-BE(2) cells preferentially occurs in the substrate-adherent phenotype. For the first time, we report here a direct effect of tTG in the phenotypic maturation toward apoptosis. These results indicate that the tTG-dependent irreversible cross-linking of intracellular protein represents an important biochemical event in the induction of the structural changes featuring cells dying by apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6584-6596
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology

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