Violacein, a pigment produced by Chromobacterium violaceum, is reported to be a potential drug for the treatment of Chagas' disease. Violacein is also effective against leukemia and lymphoma cells in culture (IC50 10−8 M). Changes in the nuclear acid content, 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazole-2-yl)-2,5-biphenyl tetrazolium bromide reduction and neutral red uptake in these cells were used to evaluate the cytotoxicity of violacein in V79 Chinese hamster (M-8) fibroblasts. Violacein was highly cytotoxic to V79 fibroblasts (IC50 5–12 μM). Using the TUNEL method and the Feulgen reaction coupled to image analysis, violacein (5 and 10 μM) was found to trigger apoptosis but not necrosis in V79 cells. The morphological changes seen in the nuclei of these cells included chromatin condensation and a decrease in deoxyribonucleic acid content. These results demonstrating that violacein induces apoptosis in V79 cells strengthen its potential as a therapeutic agent.
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Vol. 36 • No. 8