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Neurochem Res. 2012 Oct;37(10):2178-89. doi: 10.1007/s11064-012-0841-y. Epub 2012 Jul 31.

Astrocyte activation: a key step in rotenone induced cytotoxicity and DNA damage.

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Division of Toxicology, CSIR-Central Drug Research Institute, P.O. Box 173, Lucknow, 226001 UP, India.


Astrocytes are the most abundant glial cells, which provide metabolic support for neurons. Rotenone is a botanical pesticide of natural origin, known to exhibit neurotoxic potential via inhibition of mitochondrial complex-I. This study was carried out to explore the effect of rotenone on C6 cells. The cell line C6 derived from rat glioma cells represents astrocyte-like cell. C6 cells were treated with rotenone (0.1, 1 and 10 μM) for 4 h. The effect of rotenone was studied on cell survival (MTT reduction and PI uptake); free radicals (ROS and RNS) and DNA damage (comet assay and Hoechst staining). The glial cell activation and apoptotic cell death was evaluated by expression of Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and caspase-3 respectively. The treatment with rotenone resulted in decreased cell survival and increased free radical generation. Altered nuclear morphology and DNA damage were evident following rotenone treatment in Hoechst staining and Comet assay. Rotenone elevated expression of GFAP and caspase-3 that indicates glial cell activation and apoptosis, respectively. We further studied the effect of melatonin, an antioxidant, on the observed toxic effects. Co-incubation of antioxidant, melatonin (300 μM), significantly suppressed rotenone induced above-mentioned effects in C6 cells. Inhibitory effects of melatonin suggest that free radicals play a major role in rotenone induced astrocyte activation and cellular toxicity leading to apoptosis of astroglial cells.

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