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Nitric Oxide-Mediated Inhibition of the Mitochondrial Respiratory Chain in Cultured Astrocytes


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. J. P. Bolaños at Department of Neurochemistry, Institute of Neurology, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, U.K.


Abstract: The Ca2+-independent form of nitric oxide synthase was induced in rat neonatal astrocytes in primary culture by incubation with lipopolysaccharide (1 µg/ml) plus interferon-γ (100 U/ml), and the activities of the mitochondrial respiratory chain components were assessed. Incubation for 18 h produced 25% inhibition of cytochrome c oxidase activity. NADH-ubiquinone-1 reductase (complex I) and succinate-cytochrome c reductase (complex II–III) activities were not affected. Prolonged incubation for 36 h gave rise to a 56% reduction of cytochrome c oxidase activity and a 35% reduction in succinate-cytochrome c reductase activity, but NADH-ubiquinone-1 reductase activity was unchanged. Citrate synthase activity was not affected by any of these conditions. The inhibition of the activities of these mitochondrial respiratory chain complexes was prevented by incubation in the presence of the specific nitric oxide synthase inhibitor NG-monomethyl-l-arginine. The lipopolysaccharide/interferon-γ treatment of the astrocytes produced an increase in glycolysis and lactate formation. These results suggest that inhibition of the mitochondrial respiratory chain after induction of astrocytic nitric oxide synthase may represent a mechanism for nitric oxide-mediated neurotoxicity.

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