Oral exposure of DBA/2 mice to benzo[a]pyrene (BP) has been shown to result in hematotoxicity which is manifested as aplastic anemia and leukemia. Since normal hematopoiesis is regulated by bone marrow stromal cells, in this study we have characterized the bone marrow stromal toxicity induced by BP and BP-derived metabolites, particularly quinones. Incubation of stromal cells with various concentrations of BP-1,6-, 3,6-, 6,12-, or 7,8-quinone for 24 hr resulted in a significant decrease of cell survival in a concentration-dependent manner, while cells treated with BP or BP-7,8-dihydrodiol did not exhibit any significant loss of cell survival. Among the BP quinones examined, BP-1,6-quinone was the most cytotoxic to stromal cells. The cytotoxicity induced by BP-1,6-quinone also exhibited a time-dependent relationship. Pretreatment of stromal cells with 1,2 dithiole-3-thione (D3T) resulted in a significant induction of both cellular reduced glutathione (GSH) content and quinone reductase (QR) activity in a concentration-dependent manner. However, D3T pretreatment did not offer any protection against BP-1,6-quinone-induced toxicity. Furthermore, dicumarol, a potent inhibitor of QR, or buthionine sulfoximine, a specific inhibitor of GSH biosynthesis, did not potentiate BP-1,6-quinone-induced cytotoxicity to stromal cells. In the presence of superoxide dismutase or catalase, BP-1,6-quinone-induced cytotoxicity was not altered. However, incubation of stromal cells with BP-1,6-quinone resulted in a significant depletion of cellular ATP content and mitochondrial morphological changes, which preceded the loss of cell survival. In addition to BP-1,6-quinone, other cytotoxic BP quinones also exhibited a capacity to deplete cellular ATP level in stromal cells, while BP, which was not cytotoxic to stromal cells, did not elicit any significant decrease in cellular ATP level. These observations suggest that mitochondria may be a potential target of BP quinones. Overall, the above results indicate that neither cellular GSH and QR nor reactive oxygen species appear to be involved in BP quinone-induced stromal cell injury and that BP quinones may elicit cytotoxicity to stromal cells through directly disrupting mitochondrial energy metabolism.
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