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Neurochem Int. 1997 Apr-May;30(4-5):427-31.

Cytokine-mediated neuronal apoptosis.

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  • 1Neuroimmunobiology and Host Defense Laboratory, Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation, MN 55404, USA.


Cytokines have been reported to induce neuronal injury via the free radical nitric oxide (NO); however, the precise mechanism underlying cytokine-mediated neurotoxicity is unclear. We investigated the hypothesis that cytokine-mediated neurotoxicity in primary cultures of human fetal neurons occurs via an apoptotic mechanism triggered by NO. Treatment of mixed neuronal/glial cell cultures with interferon (IFN)-gamma plus interleukin (IL)-1 beta for 13 days induced a high output of NO accompanied by marked neuronal loss. The NO synthase inhibitor N-monomethyl-L-arginine (NMMA) significantly attenuated cytokine-induced neuronal loss, confirming the involvement of NO. Cytokine-mediated neuronal injury was accompanied by morphologic changes and a DNA fragmentation pattern consistent with apoptosis. Treatment of neuronal cell cultures with NMMA protected against cytokine-mediated apoptotic death. These findings, using primary human neuronal cell cultures, support the hypothesis that cytokine-mediated neurotoxicity involving NO proceeds via an apoptotic mechanism. These findings could lead to the development of new therapies for neurodegenerative diseases involving glia, cytokines, and NO.

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