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Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011 Apr 15;14(8):1437-48. doi: 10.1089/ars.2010.3596. Epub 2011 Jan 8.

Redox regulation of the intrinsic pathway in neuronal apoptosis.

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Department of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Sciences, University of Georgia, 250 Green St., Athens, GA 30602, USA.


Two principal pathways exist by which cells can undergo apoptotic death, known as the extrinsic and the intrinsic pathways. Binding of a ligand to a death receptor activates the extrinsic pathway. In the intrinsic pathway, an apoptotic stimulus, such as neurotrophin withdrawal or exposure to a toxin, causes a proapoptotic member of the Bcl-2 family of proteins, such as Bax, to permeabilize the outer mitochondrial membrane. This allows redistribution of cytochrome c from the mitochondrial intermembrane space into the cytoplasm, where it causes activation of caspase proteases and, subsequently, cell death. A dramatic increase occurs in mitochondria-derived reactive oxygen species (ROS) during the apoptotic death of sympathetic, cerebellar granule, and cortical neurons. These ROS lie downstream of Bax in each cell type. Here I review possible mechanisms by which Bax causes increased ROS during neuronal apoptosis. I also discuss evidence that these ROS are an important part of the apoptotic cascade in these cells. Finally, I discuss evidence that suggests that neurotrophins prevent release of cytochrome c in neurons through activation of an antioxidant pathway.

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