Methadone induces CAD degradation and AIF-mediated necrotic-like cell death in neuroblastoma cells

Sergio Perez-Alvarez, Victoria Iglesias-Guimarais, María E. Solesio, Raquel María Melero-Fernandez De Mera, Víctor J. Yuste, María F. Galindo, Joaquín Jordán

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Methadone (d,l-methadone hydrochloride) is a full-opioid agonist, originally developed as a substitution for heroin or other opiates abusers. Nowadays methadone is also being applied as long-lasting analgesics in cancer, and it is proposed as a promising agent for leukemia therapy. Previously, we have demonstrated that high concentrations of methadone (0.5 mM) induced necrotic-like cell death in SH-SY5Y cells. The pathway involved is caspase-independent but involves impairment of mitochondrial ATP synthesis and mitochondrial cytochrome c release. However, the downstream mitochondrial pathways remained unclear. Here, we studied the participation of apoptosis inducing factor (AIF) in methadone-induced cell death. Methadone resulted in a translocation of AIF from mitochondria to the nucleus. Translocation was inhibited by cyclosporine A, but not by lack of Bax protein. Therefore the effect seems mediated by the formation of the mitochondrial transition pore, but is apparently independent of Bax. Furthermore, methadone-treated SH-SY5Y nuclei show characteristics that are typical for stage I nuclear condensation. Methadone did not induce degradation of DNA into oligonucleosomal fragments or into high molecular weight DNA fragments. Absence of DNA fragmentation coincided with a considerable decrease in the levels of the caspase-actived endonuclase DNase and its chaperone-inhibitor ICAD. In conclusion, our results provide mechanistic insights into the molecular mechanisms that underlie methadone-induced cell death. This knowledge may prove useful to develop novel strategies to prevent toxic side-effects of methadone thereby sustaining its use as therapeutical agent against tumors. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-360
JournalPharmacological Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2011


  • Drug abuse
  • Mitochondria
  • Necrosis


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