Glial Cells Mediate Toxicity in Glutathione-Depleted Mesencephalic Cultures


  • Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc., Philadelphia

  • Abbreviations used: BSO, buthionine sulfoximine; COX, cyclooxygenase; GSH, reduced glutathione; GSSG, oxidized glutathione; LOX, lipoxygenase; MTT, 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide; L-NAME, NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester hydrochloride; NDGA, nordihydroguaiaretic acid; NO, nitric oxide; NOS, nitric oxide synthase; PD, Parkinson’s disease; ROS, reactive oxygen species.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. C. Mytilineou at Department of Neurology, Box 1137, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, U.S.A.


Abstract: We have examined the role of glial cells in the toxicity that results from inhibition of reduced glutathione (GSH) synthesis by L-buthionine sulfoximine (BSO) in mesencephalic cell cultures. We show that GSH depletion, to levels that cause total cell loss in cultures containing neurons and glial cells, has no effect on cell viability in enriched neuronal cultures. An increase in the plating cell density sensitizes glia-containing cultures to GSH depletion-induced toxicity. This suggests that cell death in this model is the consequence of events that are induced by GSH depletion and are mediated by glial cells. The antioxidant ascorbic acid and the lipoxygenase (LOX) inhibitor nordihydroguaiaretic acid (1-10 μM) provide full protection from BSO toxicity, indicating that arachidonic acid metabolism through the LOX pathway and the generation of reactive oxygen species play a role in the loss of cell viability. In contrast, inhibition of nitric oxide (NO) synthase affords only partial protection from BSO toxicity, suggesting that increased NO production cannot entirely account for cell death in this model. Our data provide evidence that GSH depletion in the presence of glial cells leads to neuronal degeneration that can be prevented by inhibition of LOX. This may have relevance to the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease, where glial activation and depletion of GSH have been found in the substantia nigra pars compacta.