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Front Neuroenergetics. 2010 Feb 3;2:1. doi: 10.3389/neuro.14.001.2010. eCollection 2010.

Persistent mitochondrial damage by nitric oxide and its derivatives: neuropathological implications.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institute of Neurosciences of Castilla- Leon, University of Salamanca Salamanca, Spain.


Approximately 15 years ago we reported that cytochrome c oxidase (CcO) was persistently inhibited as a consequence of endogenous induction and activation of nitric oxide ((*)NO) synthase-2 (NOS2) in astrocytes. Furthermore, the reactive nitrogen species implicated was peroxynitrite. In contrast to the reversible inhibition by (*)NO, which occurs rapidly, in competition with O(2), and has signaling regulatory implications, the irreversible CcO damage by peroxynitrite is progressive in nature and follows and/or is accompanied by damage to other key mitochondrial bioenergetic targets. In purified CcO it has been reported that the irreversible inhibition occurs through a mechanism involving damage of the heme a(3)-Cu(B) binuclear center leading to an increase in the K(m) for oxygen. Astrocyte survival, as a consequence of peroxynitrite exposure, is preserved due to their robust bioenergetic and antioxidant defense mechanisms. However, by releasing peroxynitrite to the neighboring neurons, whose antioxidant defense can, under certain conditions, be fragile, activated astrocytes trigger bioenergetic stress leading to neuronal cell death. Thus, such irreversible inhibition of CcO by peroxynitrite may be a plausible mechanism for the neuronal death associated with neurodegenerative diseases, in which the activation of astrocytes plays a crucial role.


astrocytes; cytochrome c oxidase; neurodegeneration; neurons; nitric oxide; peroxynitrite

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