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Neurochem Res. 2009 Dec;34(12):2147-53. doi: 10.1007/s11064-009-0014-9.

Rotenone induces cell death of cholinergic neurons in an organotypic co-culture brain slice model.

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Laboratory of Psychiatry and Exp. Alzheimer's Research, Department of Psychiatry, Innsbruck Medical University, Anichstr. 35, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria.


In Alzheimer and Parkinson's disease cell death of cholinergic and dopaminergic neurons are characteristic hallmarks, respectively. It is well established that rotenone, an inhibitor of complex I of the electron transport chain, induces cell death of dopaminergic neurons, however, not much is known on the effects of rotenone on cholinergic neurons. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effects of rotenone on cholinergic neurons in an organotypic in vitro brain co-slice model. When co-cultures were treated with 10 μM rotenone for 24 h a significantly decreased number of cholinergic neurons was found in the basal nucleus of Meynert but not in the dorsal striatum. This cell death exhibited apoptotic DAPI-positive malformed nuclei and enhanced TUNEL-positive cells. In summary, inhibition of complex I of the electron transport chain may play a role in neurodegeneration of cholinergic neurons.

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