Anti-apoptotic actions of cycloheximide: Blockade of programmed cell death or induction of programmed cell life?

M. P. Mattson, K. Furukawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Cycloheximide (CHX), long recognized for its ability to inhibit protein synthesis, has been widely employed in studies of cell death to the extent that prevention of cell death by CHX has been used as prima facie evidence for a subtype of apoptosis called 'programmed cell death'. However, very rarely have investigators determined the effects of CHX on protein synthesis in their particular cell death paradigms. Recent findings are revealing alternative mechanisms of action of CHX that involve, ironically, stimulation of cytoprotective signalling pathways. For example, in embryonic rat hippocampal cell cultures CHX protects neurons against oxidative insults by a mechanism involving induction of neuroprotective gene products including Bcl-2. CHX induces increases in immediate early gene mRNA levels, and can activate several different kinases and transcription factors that are also activated by various insults and in response to anti-apoptotic growth factors. Concentrations of CHX that cause only a modest and/or transient decrease in overall protein synthesis may prevent cell death by inducing cytoprotective signalling pathways ('programmed cell life'), whereas higher concentrations of CHX may prevent cell death by blocking the expression of 'death genes'. Establishing which of these anti-apoptotic mechanisms of action of CHX is operative in each cell death paradigm is clearly essential for proper interpretation of experimental results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-264
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Antioxidant enzymes
  • Apoptosis
  • Bcl-2
  • Free radicals
  • NF-κB
  • Protein synthesis
  • Transcription factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Cell Biology


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