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J Neurochem. 2007 Jun;101(6):1619-31. Epub 2007 Apr 16.

'Mild Uncoupling' does not decrease mitochondrial superoxide levels in cultured cerebellar granule neurons but decreases spare respiratory capacity and increases toxicity to glutamate and oxidative stress.

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Buck Institute for Age Research, Novato, CA 94945, USA.


Cultured rat cerebellar granule neurons were incubated with low nanomolar concentrations of the protonophore carbonylcyanide-p-trifluoromethoxyphenyl hydrazone (FCCP) to test the hypothesis that 'mild uncoupling' could be neuroprotective by decreasing oxidative stress. To quantify the uncoupling, respiration and mitochondrial membrane potential (Deltapsi(m)) were determined in parallel as a function of FCCP concentration. Deltapsi(m) dropped by less than 10 mV before respiratory control was lost. Conditions for the valid estimation of matrix superoxide levels were determined from the rate of oxidation of the matrix-targeted fluorescent probe MitoSOX. No significant change in the level of matrix superoxide could be detected on addition of FCCP while respiratory control was retained, although cytoplasmic superoxide levels measured by dihydroethidium oxidation increased. 'Mild uncoupling' by 30 nmol/L FCCP did not alleviate neuronal dysregulation induced by glutathione depletion and significantly enhanced that due to menadione-induced oxidative stress. Low protonophore concentrations enhanced N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor-induced delayed calcium deregulation consistent with a decrease in the spare respiratory capacity available to match the bioenergetic demand of chronic receptor activation. It is concluded that the 'mild uncoupling' hypothesis is not supported by this model.

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