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J Biol Chem. 2003 Jan 10;278(2):864-74. Epub 2002 Oct 31.

Peroxynitrite protects neurons against nitric oxide-mediated apoptosis. A key role for glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase activity in neuroprotection.

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  • 1Departamento de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular, Universidad de Salamanca, Hospital Universitario de Salamanca, Spain.


Peroxynitrite is thought to be a nitric oxide-derived neurotoxic effector molecule involved in the disruption of key energy-related metabolic targets. To assess the consequences of such interference in cellular glucose metabolism and viability, we studied the possible modulatory role played by peroxynitrite in glucose oxidation in neurons and astrocytes in primary culture. Here, we report that peroxynitrite triggered rapid stimulation of pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) activity and the accumulation of NADPH, an essential cofactor for glutathione regeneration. In contrast to peroxynitrite, nitric oxide elicited NADPH depletion, glutathione oxidation, and apoptotic cell death in neurons, but not in astrocytes. These events were noticeably counteracted by pretreatment of neurons with peroxynitrite. In an attempt to elucidate the mechanism responsible for this PPP stimulation and neuroprotection, we found evidence consistent with both exogenous and endogenous peroxynitrite-mediated activation of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), an enzyme that catalyzes the first rate-limiting step in the PPP. Moreover, functional overexpression of the G6PD gene in stably transformed PC12 cells induced NADPH accumulation and offered remarkable resistance against nitric oxide-mediated apoptosis, whereas G6PD gene-targeted antisense inhibition depleted NADPH levels and exacerbated cellular vulnerability. In light of these results, we suggest that G6PD activation represents a novel role for peroxynitrite in neuroprotection against nitric oxide-mediated apoptosis.

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