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C R Seances Soc Biol Fil. 1993;187(3):308-23.

[Transgenic mice overexpressing copper-zinc superoxide dismutase: a model for the study of radical mechanisms and aging].

[Article in French]

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  • 1Laboratoire de Biochimie Génétique-CNRS URA 1335, Hôpital Necker, Paris.


Oxidants are ubiquitous in our aerobic environment and could play an etiological role in aging and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. All cells contain several antioxidant enzymes, most importantly, superoxide dismutases (MnSOD and CuZnSOD), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px), glutathione reductase and catalase. The individual contribution of these antioxidant enzymes in neuronal protection during aging and under in vivo conditions remains unknown. We feel that the use of genetic manipulations to construct cells and/or transgenic mice that specifically overexpress or lack a single function represent a way to an understanding of the role of the individual antioxidant enzymes in neuronal aging. Copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD) is one of the genes encoded by chromosome 21. As a consequence of gene dosage excess, CuZnSOD activity and protein are increased by 50% in all tissues of Down syndrome (DS) patients. It has been suggested that this increment, by accelerating hydrogen peroxide formation, might promote oxidative damage within DS cells and might be involved in the various neurobiological abnormalities found in DS such as premature aging and Alzheimer-type neurological lesions. Moreover, the level of CuZnSOD protein and mRNA is particularly high in pyramidal hippocampal neurons susceptible to degenerative processes in Alzheimer's disease, and in dopaminergic melanized-neurons vulnerable in Parkinson's disease. In order to test this hypothesis, we have created transfected cells and transgenic mice which express human CuZnSOD gene. An oversupply of this enzyme is not beneficial to the brain of transgenic mice and causes increased thiobarbituric-reactive substances (TBARS), an index of lipid peroxidation, and may be due to peroxides generated by an imbalance between enzymatic activities of CuZnSOD and GSH-Px. Unlike what has been observed in transfected cells with the human CuZnSOD gene, but similar to what was found in the DS fetal brain, the GSH-Px activity was not increased in the brain of transgenic mice. One possibility to explain this discrepancy could be the differential cellular localization of these two enzymes in the brain (CuZnSOD in neurons and GSH-Px in glial cells). This heterogeneous cellular distribution of the enzymes implicated in oxygen-free radicals detoxification could participate to a selective neuronal degeneration. Interestingly, overexpression of CuZnSOD in the brain of transgenic mice is associated with an increased MnSOD activity, the mitochondrial form of the enzyme. This increased MnSOD might be a defense response to protect mitochondria from oxidative damage.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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