Nitric oxide-mediated mitochondrial damage: A potential neuroprotective role for glutathione

JP Bolanos, SJR Heales, S Peuchen, JE Barker, JM Land, JB Clark

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251 Citations (Scopus)


In this study we have investigated the mechanisms leading to mitochondrial damage in cultured neurons following sustained exposure to nitric oxide. Thus, the effects upon neuronal mitochondrial respiratory chain complex activity and reduced glutathione concentration following exposure to either the nitric oxide donor, S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine, or to nitric oxide releasing astrocytes were assessed. Incubation with S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine (1 mM) for 24 h decreased neuronal glutathione concentration by 57%, and this effect was accompanied by a marked decrease of complex I (43%), complex II-III (63%), and complex IV (41%) activities. Incubation of neurons with the glutathione synthesis inhibitor, L-buthionine-[S,R]-sulfoximine caused a major depletion of neuronal glutathione (93%), an effect that was accompanied by a marked loss of complex II-III (60%) and complex IV (41%) activities, although complex I activity was only mildly decreased (34%). In an attempt to approach a more physiological situation, we studied the effects upon glutathione status and mitochondrial respiratory chain activity of neurons incubated in coculture with nitric oxide releasing astrocytes, Astrocytes were activated by incubation with lipopolysaccharide/interferon-gamma for 18 h, thereby inducing nitric oxide synthase and, hence, a continuous release of nitric oxide. Coincubation for 24 h of activated astrocytes with neurons caused a limited loss of complex IV activity and had no effect on the activities of complexes I or II-III. However, neurons exposed to astrocytes had a 1.7-fold fold increase in glutathione concentration compared to neurons cultured alone. Under these coculture conditions, the neuronal ATP concentration was modestly reduced (14%). This loss of ATP was prevented by the nitric oxide synthase inhibitor, N-G-monomethyl-L-arginine. These results suggest that the neuronal mitochondrial respiratory chain is damaged by sustained exposure to nitric oxide and that reduced glutathione may be an important defence against such damage. Copyright (C) 1996 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)995-1001
Number of pages7
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • nitric oxide
  • neurons
  • astrocytes
  • mitochondria
  • glutathione
  • free radicals

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