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J Biol Chem. 2010 May 28;285(22):17077-88. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.065052. Epub 2010 Mar 26.

Glutathionylation of adenine nucleotide translocase induced by carbon monoxide prevents mitochondrial membrane permeabilization and apoptosis.

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  • 1Instituto de Biologia Experimental e Tecnológica, Apartado 12, 2781-901 Oeiras, Portugal.


The present work demonstrates the ability of CO to prevent apoptosis in a primary culture of astrocytes. For the first time, the antiapoptotic behavior can be clearly attributed to the inhibition of mitochondrial membrane permeabilization (MMP), a key event in the intrinsic apoptotic pathway. In isolated non-synaptic mitochondria, CO partially inhibits (i) loss of potential, (ii) the opening of a nonspecific pore through the inner membrane, (iii) swelling, and (iv) cytochrome c release, which are induced by calcium, diamide, or atractyloside (a ligand of ANT). CO directly modulates ANT function by enhancing ADP/ATP exchange and prevents its pore-forming activity. Additionally, CO induces reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, and its prevention by beta-carotene decreases CO cytoprotection in intact cells as well as in isolated mitochondria, revealing the key role of ROS. On the other hand, CO induces a slight increase in mitochondrial oxidized glutathione, which is essential for apoptosis modulation by (i) delaying astrocytic apoptosis, (ii) decreasing MMP, and (iii) enhancing ADP/ATP translocation activity of ANT. Moreover, CO and GSSG trigger ANT glutathionylation, a post-translational process regulating protein function in response to redox cellular changes. In conclusion, CO protects astrocytes from apoptosis by preventing MMP, acting on ANT (glutathionylation and inhibition of its pore activity) via a preconditioning-like process mediated by ROS and GSSG.

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