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Endocrinology. 2009 Jan;150(1):46-55. doi: 10.1210/en.2008-0404. Epub 2008 Sep 4.

Superoxide and respiratory coupling in mitochondria of insulin-deficient diabetic rats.

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University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, USA.


Mitochondrial reactive oxygen species have been implicated in both diabetic complications and the progression of the underlying diabetic state. However, it is not clear whether mitochondria of diabetic origin are intrinsically altered to generate excess reactive oxygen species independent of the surrounding diabetic milieu. Mitochondria were isolated from gastrocnemius, heart, and liver of 2-wk and 2-month streptozotocin diabetic rats and controls. We rigidly quantified mitochondrial superoxide, respiration and ATP production, respiratory coupling, the expression of several proteins with antioxidant properties, and the redox state of glutathione. Both fluorescent assessment and electron paramagnetic spectroscopy revealed that superoxide production was unchanged or reduced in the 2-month diabetic mitochondria compared with controls. Kinetic analysis of the proton leak showed that diabetic heart and muscle mitochondria were actually more coupled compared with control despite an approximate 2- to 4-fold increase in uncoupling protein-3 content. Adenine nucleotide translocator type 1 expression was reduced by approximately 50% in diabetic muscle mitochondria. Catalase was significantly up-regulated in muscle and heart tissue and in heart mitochondria, whereas glutathione peroxidase expression was increased in liver mitochondria of diabetic rats. We conclude that gastrocnemius, heart, and liver mitochondria of streptozotocin diabetic rats are not irrevocably altered toward excess superoxide production either by complex I or complex III. Moreover, gastrocnemius and heart mitochondria demonstrate increased, not decreased, respiratory coupling. Mitochondria of insulin-deficient diabetic rats do show signs of adaptation to antecedent oxidative stress manifested as tissue-specific enzyme and uncoupling protein expression but remain remarkably robust with respect to superoxide production.

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