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Neuroscience. 2007 Jan 5;144(1):46-55. Epub 2006 Nov 2.

L-carnitine protects neurons from 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium-induced neuronal apoptosis in rat forebrain culture.

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  • 1Division of Neurotoxicology, HFT-132, National Center for Toxicological Research/U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Jefferson, AR 72079, USA. cheng.wang@fda.hhs.gov

Abstract

1-Methyl-4-phenylpyridinium ion (MPP+), an inhibitor of mitochondrial complex I, has been widely used as a neurotoxin because it elicits a severe Parkinson's disease-like syndrome with an elevation of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) and apoptosis. L-carnitine plays an integral role in attenuating the brain injury associated with mitochondrial neurodegenerative disorders. The present study investigates the effects of L-carnitine against the toxicity of MPP+ in rat forebrain primary cultures. Cells in culture were treated for 24 h with 100, 250, 500 and 1000 microM MPP+ alone or co-incubated with L-carnitine. MPP+ produced a dose-related increase in DNA fragmentation as measured by cell death ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), an increase in the number of TUNEL (terminal dUTP nick-end labeling)-positive cells and a reduction in the mitochondrial metabolism of 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT). No significant effect was observed with the release of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), indicating that cell death presumably occurred via apoptotic mechanisms. Co-incubation of MPP+ with L-carnitine significantly reduced MPP+-induced apoptosis. Western blot analyses showed that neurotoxic concentrations of MPP+ decreased the ratio of BCL-X(L) to Bax and decreased the protein levels of polysialic acid neural cell adhesion molecules (PSA-NCAM), a neuron specific marker. L-carnitine blocked these effects of MPP+ suggesting its potential therapeutic utility in degenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency and other mitochondrial diseases.

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