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J Neurochem. 2000 Dec;75(6):2368-79.

Tauroursodeoxycholic acid partially prevents apoptosis induced by 3-nitropropionic acid: evidence for a mitochondrial pathway independent of the permeability transition.

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Department of Medicine, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455, USA.


Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) has been shown to be a strong modulator of the apoptotic threshold in both hepatic and nonhepatic cells. 3-Nitropropionic acid (3-NP), an irreversible inhibitor of succinate dehydrogenase, appears to cause apoptotic neuronal cell death in the striatum, reminiscent of the neurochemical and anatomical changes associated with Huntington's disease (HD). This study was undertaken (a) to characterize further the mechanism by which 3-NP induces apoptosis in rat neuronal RN33B cells and (b) to determine if and how the taurine-conjugated UDCA, tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA), inhibits apoptosis induced by 3-NP. Our results indicate that coincubation of cells with TUDCA and 3-NP was associated with an approximately 80% reduction in apoptosis (p < 0.001), whereas neither taurine nor cyclosporin A, a potent inhibitor of the mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT), inhibited cell death. Moreover, TUDCA, as well as UDCA and its glycine-conjugated form, glycoursodeoxycholic acid, prevented mitochondrial release of cytochrome c (p < 0.001), which probably accounts for the observed inhibition of DEVD-specific caspase activity and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase cleavage. 3-NP decreased mitochondrial transmembrane potential (p < 0.001) and increased mitochondrial-associated Bax protein levels (p < 0.001). Coincubation with TUDCA was associated with significant inhibition of these mitochondrial membrane alterations (p < 0.01). The results suggest that TUDCA inhibits 3-NP-induced apoptosis via direct inhibition of mitochondrial depolarization and outer membrane disruption, together with modulation of Bax translocation from cytosol to mitochondria. In addition, cell death by 3-NP apparently occurs through pathways that are independent of the MPT.

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