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Arch Biochem Biophys. 1994 May 15;311(1):180-90.

Role of cellular energy status in tocopheryl hemisuccinate cytoprotection against ethyl methanesulfonate-induced toxicity.

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Department of Pathology, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond 23298-0662.


Previous studies from our laboratory have demonstrated that the administration of alpha-tocopheryl hemisuccinate (TS), but not unesterified alpha-tocopherol (T), protects hepatocytes from a variety of toxic insults including chemicals, drugs, metals, and oxidative stress. One possible mechanism for this unique cytoprotection is that succinate released from cellular TS is used as a supplemental energy source during a toxic challenge. To test this hypothesis, we examined the effect of TS (25 microM) administration on cell viability, lipid peroxidation, and several cellular energy-related processes such as mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP, psi delta), lactate formation, and ATP and K+ concentrations in isolated hepatocyte suspensions during a toxic challenge with the alkylating agent, ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS). Data from these studies demonstrate that EMS treatment results in rapid cell death and lipid peroxidation following 2 h of incubation. Preceding EMS-induced cell death was a rapid loss of MMP, intracellular ATP and K+ levels, and mitochondrial ultrastructure as well as a transient increase in cellular lactate production. Pretreatment of hepatocytes with TS prior to EMS exposure prevented the loss of MMP and mitochondrial ultrastructural changes as well as lipid peroxidation and cell death. Cellular ATP levels and lactate production did not reflect the protection afforded to TS-treated hepatocytes. Protection against EMS-induced toxicity was not observed when hepatocytes were: (i) pretreated with TS and esterase inhibitors (preventing T and succinate release from TS); (ii) pretreated with other lipophilic succinate derivatives (cholesteryl hemisuccinate, monomethyl and dimethyl succinate); or (iii) pretreated with T and sodium succinate. Unlike monomethyl succinate, cytoprotective TS pretreatment did not stimulate gluconeogenesis or glycolysis. Hepatocytes isolated from rats pretreated for 24 h with T were not protected from the toxic effects of EMS, unlike TS-pretreated rats. In conclusion, TS cytoprotection against the mitochondrial toxicant EMS appears to be related to the hepatocellular accumulation of TS and the maintenance of mitochondrial function (MMP). Based on our earlier findings and the present observations, we propose that a unique subcellular disposition for TS and the subsequent release of T and succinate at a critical mitochondrial site is responsible for the observed cytoprotection.

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