Archives of Toxicology

, Volume 83, Issue 5, pp 417–427 | Cite as

Oxidative stress and apoptotic changes in primary cultures of rat proximal tubular cells exposed to lead

  • Lin Wang
  • Heng Wang
  • Maozhi Hu
  • Jin Cao
  • Dawei Chen
  • Zongping Liu
Inorganic Compounds


Lead is a known nephrotoxic element. In this study, primary cultures of rat proximal tubular (rPT) cells were treated with different concentrations of lead acetate (0.25, 0.5 and 1 μM) to investigate its cytotoxic mechanism. A progressive loss in cell viability together with a significant increase in the number of apoptotic and necrotic cells and lactate dehydrogenase release were seen in the experiment. Simultaneously, elevation of reactive oxygen species levels and intracellular [Ca2+]i, depletion of mitochondrial membrane potential and intracellular glutathione were revealed during the lead exposure. In addition, apoptotic morphological changes induced by lead exposure in rPT cells were demonstrated by Hoechst 33258 staining. The apoptosis was markedly prevented by N-acetyl-l-cysteine, while the necrosis was not affected. Moreover, catalase and superoxide dismutase activities in the living cells rose significantly. In conclusion, exposure of rPT cells to low-concentration lead led to cell death, mediated by an apoptotic and a necrotic mechanism. The apoptotic death induced by oxidative stress was the chief mechanism. Meanwhile, a group of cells survived lead action, mediated by their ability to activate antioxidant defense systems.


Lead Oxidative stress Apoptosis Proximal tubular cells Primary cell culture 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lin Wang
    • 1
  • Heng Wang
    • 1
  • Maozhi Hu
    • 2
  • Jin Cao
    • 1
  • Dawei Chen
    • 1
  • Zongping Liu
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Veterinary MedicineYangzhou UniversityYangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Testing Center of Yangzhou UniversityYangzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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