The cyanobacterial toxin microcystin‐LR (MCLR) is a potent inhibitor of protein phosphatases 1 and 2A, and is selectively toxic to the liver in vivo and to isolated hepatocytes in vitro. This selectivity is believed to be due to toxin uptake via bile acid carriers. We investigated at the light and ultrastructural levels the effects of high concentrations of MCLR and long incubation times to determine in vitro whether fibroblasts and kidney cells (non‐target cells) respond in the same manner as do hepatocytes (target cells) at low concentrations and short incubation times. Cultured rat skin fibroblasts (ATCC 1213) and rat kidney epithelial cells (ATCC 1571) were incubated with MCLR at 133 μM 1‐24 hr. Lesions in these cells were compared with those in cultured hepatocytes incubated with MCLR at 13.3 μM from 1 to 32 min. Lesions in hepatocytes, kidney cells, and fibroblasts were noted at 4 min, 1 hr, and 8 hr, respectively, after initial exposure to MCLR. Lesions in all three cell types progressed and included plasma membrane blebbing, loss of cell‐to‐cell contact, clumping and rounding of cells, cytoplasmic vacuolization, and redistribution of cytoplasmic organelles. Loss of microvilli, whorling of rough endoplasmic reticulum, dense staining and dilated cristae in mitochondria, and pinching off of membrane blebs were noted only in hepatocytes. Nuclear changes typical of apoptosis were observed only in fibroblasts and kidney cells. Similarities in responses of different cell types to MCLR exposure probably reflect a common biochemical mechanism of action, i.e., inhibition of protein phosphatases 1 and 2A as described by others. The observed differences in the responses of the cell types examined in this study may reflect differences in the proteins phosphorylated and the severity of hyperphosphorylation. © 1995 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes