Oxidative stress caused by hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) triggers the hypersensitive response of plants to pathogens. Here, short pulses of H2O2 are shown to cause death of lentil (Lens culinaris) root protoplasts. Dead cells showed DNA fragmentation and ladder formation, typical hallmarks of apoptosis (programmed cell death). DNA damage was evident 12 h after the H2O2 pulse and reached a maximum 12 h later. The commitment of cells to apoptosis caused by H2O2 was characterized by an early increase of lipoxygenase activity, of ultraweak luminescence and of membrane lipid peroxidation, which reached 720, 350 and 300% of controls, respectively, at 6 h after H2O2 treatment. Increased lipoxygenase activity was paralleled by an increase of its protein and mRNA level. Lipoxygenase inhibitors nordihydroguaiaretic acid, eicosatetraynoic acid and plamitoyl ascorbate prevented H2O2-induced DNA fragmentation and ultraweak luminescence, only when added together with H2O2, but not when added 8 h afterwards. Inhibitory anti-lipoxygenase monoclonal antibodies, introduced into the protoplasts by electroporation, protected cells against H2O2-induced apoptosis. On the other hand, lentil lipoxygenase products 9- and 13-hydroperoxy-octadecadienoic acids and their reduced alcohol derivatives were able to force the protoplasts into apoptosis. Altogether, these findings suggest that early activation of lipoxygenase is a key element in the execution of apoptosis induced by oxidative stress in plant cells, in a way surprisingly similar to that observed in animal cells.
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