In vitro cytotoxicity assay to screen compounds for apoptosis-inducing potential on lymphocytes and neutrophils was investigated. Mouse, rat, dog, and human whole blood were incubated for 4 and 6 hr with actinomycin D, camptothecin, cortisone acetate, cycloheximide, doxorubicin, etoposide, 5-FU, mitomycin C and puromycin. Apoptotic lymphocytes and neutrophils were counted. All test compounds induced in vitro apoptosis of lymphocytes and/or neutrophils, but there were different potencies among the test compounds and there were also species differences in susceptibility. To investigate the in vivo effects of etoposide and cycloheximide which induced apoptosis of rat lymphocytes and that of rat lymphocytes and neutrophils, respectively, in in vitro assay, rats were intravenously administered either etoposide at 12.5, 25 or 50 mg/kg or cycloheximide at 1.25, 2.5 or 5 mg/kg. Etoposide caused decreases of circulating lymphocytes at 3 hr after administration in a dose-dependent manner, -16, -25 and -51%. Although cycloheximide caused neither decreased lymphocyte nor neutrophil counts, apoptosis in 30% of neutrophils was observed in rats receiving 5 mg/kg at 3 hr after administration. Etoposide at 50 mg/kg and cycloheximide at 5 mg/kg caused lymphocyte apoptosis in the spleen, thymus, mesenteric lymph nodes, bone marrow, and Peyer's patch from 1 to 6 hr after administration, with the maximum changes at 3 hr. In addition to apoptosis of these organs, cycloheximide at 5 mg/kg caused apoptosis of polymorphonuclear cells in the lamina propria of the small intestine. Therefore, it was found that the changes seen in the in vivo experiments considerably reflected the changes seen in the in vitro experiments. From these results, apoptosis is probably one of the major mechanisms for leukocyte toxicity induced by cytotoxic compounds, and the in vitro assay to screen compounds for acute apoptosis-inducing potential on lymphocytes and neutrophils would be useful as a primary screening method for animal toxicity studies. It may also be useful for risk assessments in advance of clinical trials.
2002 The Japanese Society of Toxicology