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J Neurosci Res. 2016 Nov;94(11):1246-60. doi: 10.1002/jnr.23910.

Lithium improves cell viability in psychosine-treated MO3.13 human oligodendrocyte cell line via autophagy activation.

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NEST, Istituto Nanoscienze-CNR, Pisa, Italy.
NEST, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy.
Fondazione Umberto Veronesi, Milano, Italy.
Center for Nanotechnology Innovation@NEST, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Pisa, Italy.
NEST, Istituto Nanoscienze-CNR, Pisa, Italy.
NEST, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy.


Globoid cell leukodystrophy (GLD) is a rare, rapidly progressing childhood leukodystrophy triggered by deficit of the lysosomal enzyme galactosylceramidase (GALC) and characterized by the accumulation of galactosylsphingosine (psychosine; PSY) in the nervous system. PSY is a cytotoxic sphingolipid, which leads to widespread degeneration of oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells, causing demyelination. Here we report on autophagy in the human oligodendrocyte cell line MO3.13 treated with PSY and exploitation of Li as an autophagy modulator to rescue cell viability. We demonstrate that PSY causes upregulation of the autophagic flux at the level of autophagosome and autolysosome formation and LC3-II expression. We show that pretreatment with Li, a drug clinically used to treat bipolar disorders, can further stimulate autophagy, improving cell tolerance to PSY. This Li protective effect is found not to be linked to reduction of PSY-induced oxidative stress and might not stem from a reduction of PSY accumulation. These data provide novel information on the intracellular pathways activated during PSY-induced toxicity and suggest the autophagy pathway as a promising novel therapeutic target for ameliorating the GLD phenotype.


MO3.13 cell line; autophagy; galactosylceramidase; globoid cell leukodystrophy; krabbe; lithium; oligodendrocyte cell line; psychosine

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