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J Neurochem. 2009 Nov;111(3):669-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2009.06360.x. Epub 2009 Aug 27.

Adaptation of neuronal cells to chronic oxidative stress is associated with altered cholesterol and sphingolipid homeostasis and lysosomal function.

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Institute for Pathobiochemistry, University-Medical Center, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Germany.


Chronic oxidative stress has been causally linked to several neurodegenerative disorders. As sensitivity for oxidative stress greatly differs between brain regions and neuronal cell types, specific cellular mechanisms of adaptation to chronic oxidative stress should exist. Our objective was to identify molecular mechanisms of adaptation of neuronal cells after applying chronic sublethal oxidative stress. We demonstrate that cells resistant to oxidative stress exhibit altered cholesterol and sphingomyelin metabolisms. Stress-resistant cells showed reduced levels of molecules involved in cholesterol trafficking and intracellular accumulation of cholesterol, cholesterol precursors, and metabolites. Moreover, stress-resistant cells exhibited reduced SMase activity. The altered lipid metabolism was associated with enhanced autophagy. Treatment of stress-resistant cells with neutral SMase reversed the stress-resistant phenotype, whereas it could be mimicked by treatment of neuronal cells with a specific inhibitor of neutral SMase. Analysis of hippocampal and cerebellar tissue of mouse brains revealed that the obtained cell culture data reflect the in vivo situation. Stress-resistant cells in vitro showed similar features as the less vulnerable cerebellum in mice, whereas stress-sensitive cells resembled the highly sensitive hippocampal area. These findings suggest an important role of the cell type-specific lipid profile for differential vulnerabilities of different brain areas toward chronic oxidative stress.

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