Apoptosis of freshly isolated rat hepatocytes was induced by either the omission of fetal bovine serum in the culture medium or addition of the protein kinase C inhibitors polymyxin B or staurosporin. The time-course of DNA breakdown into oligonucleosome-sized fragments and the activity of protein kinase C was determined. Hepatocytes were found to be sensitive to bleomycin which induced a high degree of DNA breakdown even within 30 min incubation. Both staurosporin and polymyxin B induced DNA degradation in hepatocytes after three hours incubation, an effect that was partially prevented by phorbol myristate acetate (PMA). After eight hours incubation, PMA failed to counteract this action and itself produced the apoptosis of rat hepatocytes. The results suggest the involvement of protein kinase C in hepatocyte survival.

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