Calcium dependence of toxic cell death: a final common pathway

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Science  09 Nov 1979:
Vol. 206, Issue 4419, pp. 700-702
DOI: 10.1126/science.386513


Primary cultures of adult rat hepatocytes were treated in the presence or absence of extracellular calcium with ten different membrane-active toxins. In all cases more than half the cells were killed in 1 to 6 hours in the presence but not in the absence of extracellular calcium. An effect of calcium on the primary mechanism of membrane injury by any of the agents cannot be implicated. Viability, as determined by trypan blue exclusion correlated well with other indices of viability such as plating efficiency and the hydrolysis of fluorescein diacetate. It is concluded that the cells are killed by processes that involve at least two steps. In each type of injury, disruption of the integrity of the plasma membrane by widely differing mechanisms is followed by a common functional consequence involving extracellular calcium, and most likely representing an influx of calcium across the damaged plasma membrane and down a steep concentration gradient. This later step represents, or at least initiates, a final common pathway for the toxic death of these cells.