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J Biol Chem. 2012 Mar 30;287(14):10761-70. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.306738. Epub 2012 Feb 13.

Carbon monoxide modulates apoptosis by reinforcing oxidative metabolism in astrocytes: role of Bcl-2.

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


Modulation of cerebral cell metabolism for improving the outcome of hypoxia-ischemia and reperfusion is a strategy yet to be explored. Because carbon monoxide (CO) is known to prevent cerebral cell death; herein the role of CO in the modulation of astrocytic metabolism, in particular, at the level of mitochondria was investigated. Low concentrations of CO partially inhibited oxidative stress-induced apoptosis in astrocytes, by preventing caspase-3 activation, mitochondrial potential depolarization, and plasmatic membrane permeability. CO exposure enhanced intracellular ATP generation, which was accompanied by an increase on specific oxygen consumption, a decrease on lactate production, and a reduction of glucose use, indicating an improvement of oxidative phosphorylation. Accordingly, CO increased cytochrome c oxidase (COX) enzymatic specific activity and stimulated mitochondrial biogenesis. In astrocytes, COX interacts with Bcl-2, which was verified by immunoprecipitation; this interaction is superior after 24 h of CO treatment. Furthermore, CO enhanced Bcl-2 expression in astrocytes. By silencing Bcl-2 expression with siRNA transfection, CO effects in astrocytes were prevented, namely: (i) inhibition of apoptosis, (ii) increase on ATP generation, (iii) stimulation of COX activity, and (iv) mitochondrial biogenesis. Thus, Bcl-2 expression is crucial for CO modulation of oxidative metabolism and for conferring cytoprotection. In conclusion, CO protects astrocytes against oxidative stress-induced apoptosis by improving metabolism functioning, particularly mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation.

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