Nitric oxide (NO) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) are crucial elements in cytokine-mediated beta-cell destruction. In insulin-producing RINm5F cells, overexpression of cytoprotective enzymes provides significant protection against the synergistic toxicity of NO and ROS. We therefore examined whether overexpression of catalase (Cat), glutathione peroxidase (Gpx), and Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase (SOD) can provide protection for bioengineered RINm5F cells against cytokine-mediated toxicity. A 72-h exposure of RINm5F control cells to interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta) alone or a combination of IL-1beta, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and gamma-interferon resulted in a time- and concentration-dependent decrease of cell viability in the 3-[4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl]-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide (MTT) cytotoxicity assay. Although IL-1beta alone caused only a moderate reduction of viability in the range of 25%, the cytokine mixture induced a significant loss of viability of >75%. This increased toxicity of the cytokine mixture compared with that of IL-1beta alone could be explained by a higher rate of NO generation within the early 24-48 h incubation period that would favor the toxic synergism of NO and oxygen free radicals. Overexpression of Cat, Gpx, and Cu/Zn SOD protected against toxicity of the cytokine mixture but not against that of IL-1beta alone. The reduction of cytokine-mediated toxicity was evident also because of an increased proliferation rate and a drastic decrease in the cell death rate. The improved antioxidant defense status did not prevent the activation of iNOS after cytokine exposure. However, RINm5F cells overexpressing cytoprotective enzymes showed a significantly lower level of ROS-damaged protein residues. Thus, protection through Cat, Gpx, and Cu/Zn SOD overexpression was apparently because of an inactivation of ROS generated in the signal cascades of the cytokines. Overexpression of cytoprotective enzymes thus represents a feasible strategy to protect insulin-producing cells against cytokine-mediated cytotoxicity.

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