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Neurobiol Dis. 2006 Nov;24(2):308-17. Epub 2006 Sep 7.

Partial mitochondrial complex I inhibition induces oxidative damage and perturbs glutamate transport in primary retinal cultures. Relevance to Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON).

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Technologies, University of Milano-Bicocca, Via Cadore 48, 20052 Monza (MI), Italy. simone.beretta@unimib.it


Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) is a maternally inherited form of visual loss, due to selective degeneration of retinal ganglion cells. Despite the established aetiological association between LHON and mitochondrial DNA mutations affecting complex I of the electron transport chain, the pathophysiology of this disorder remains obscure. Primary rat retinal cultures were exposed to increasing concentrations of rotenone to titrate complex I inhibition. Neural cells were more sensitive than Müller glial cells to rotenone toxicity. Rotenone induced an increase in mitochondrial-derived free radicals and lipid peroxidation. Sodium-dependent glutamate uptake, which is mostly mediated by the glutamate transporter GLAST expressed by Müller glial cells, was reduced dose-dependently by rotenone with no changes in GLAST expression. Our findings suggest that complex I-derived free radicals and disruption of glutamate transport might represent key elements for explaining the selective retinal ganglion cell death in LHON.

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