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Brain Res. 2004 May 1;1006(2):157-67.

Methylglyoxal induces oxidative stress-dependent cell injury and up-regulation of interleukin-1beta and nerve growth factor in cultured hippocampal neuronal cells.

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  • 1Institute of Organ Transplants and Immunocytology, CNR, L'Aquila, Italy.


Methylglyoxal (MG) is one of the most powerful glycating agents of proteins and other important cellular components and has been shown to be toxic to cultured cells. Under hyperglycaemic conditions, an increase in the concentration of MG has been observed in human body fluids and tissues that seems to be responsible for diabetic complications. Recent data suggest that diabetes may cause impairment of cognitive processes, according to a mechanism involving both oxidative stress and advanced glycation end product (AGE) formation. In this work, we explored the molecular mechanism underlying MG toxicity in neural cells, by investigating the effect of MG on both the interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta), as the major inducer of the acute phase response, and the nervous growth factor (NGF) expression. Experiments were performed on cultured neural cells from rat hippocampus, being this brain region mostly involved in cognitive processes and, therefore, possible target of diabetes-mediated impairment of cognitive abilities. Results show that MG treatment causes in hippocampal neural cells extensive, oxidative stress-mediated cell death, in consequence of a strong catalase enzymatic activity and protein inhibition. MG also causes a very significant increase in both transcript and protein expression of the NGF as well as of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1beta. MG co-treatment with the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC) completely abrogates the observed effects. Taken together, these data demonstrate that hippocampal neurons are strongly susceptible to MG-mediated oxidative stress.

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