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J Neurochem. 2002 Nov;83(4):973-83.

Microglia enhance beta-amyloid peptide-induced toxicity in cortical and mesencephalic neurons by producing reactive oxygen species.

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Neuropharmacology Section, Laboratory of Pharmacology and Chemistry, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA.


The purpose of this study was to assess and compare the toxicity of beta-amyloid (Abeta) on primary cortical and mesencephalic neurons cultured with and without microglia in order to determine the mechanism underlying microglia-mediated Abeta-induced neurotoxicity. Incubation of cortical or mesencephalic neuron-enriched and mixed neuron-glia cultures with Abeta(1-42) over the concentration range 0.1-6.0 microm caused concentration-dependent neurotoxicity. High concentrations of Abeta (6.0 microm for cortex and 1.5-2.0 microm for mesencephalon) directly injured neurons in neuron-enriched cultures. In contrast, lower concentrations of Abeta (1.0-3.0 microm for cortex and 0.25-1.0 microm for mesencephalon) caused significant neurotoxicity in mixed neuron-glia cultures, but not in neuron- enriched cultures. Several lines of evidence indicated that microglia mediated the potentiated neurotoxicity of Abeta, including the observations that low concentrations of Abeta activated microglia morphologically in neuron-glia cultures and that addition of microglia to cortical neuron-glia cultures enhanced Abeta-induced neurotoxicity. To search for the mechanism underlying the microglia-mediated effects, several proinflammatory factors were examined in neuron-glia cultures. Low doses of Abeta significantly increased the production of superoxide anions, but not of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-1beta or nitric oxide. Catalase and superoxide dismutase significantly protected neurons from Abeta toxicity in the presence of microglia. Inhibition of NADPH oxidase activity by diphenyleneiodonium also prevented Abeta-induced neurotoxicity in neuron-glia mixed cultures. The role of NADPH oxidase-generated superoxide in mediating Abeta-induced neurotoxicity was further substantiated by a study which showed that Abeta caused less of a decrease in dopamine uptake in mesencephalic neuron-glia cultures from NADPH oxidase-deficient mutant mice than in that from wild-type controls. This study demonstrates that one of the mechanisms by which microglia can enhance the neurotoxicity of Abeta is via the production of reactive oxygen species.

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