The pathogenesis underlying the selective degeneration of nigral dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson's disease is not fully understood but several lines of evidence implicate the role of oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction. Depletion in levels of the thiol reducing agent glutathione (GSH + GSSG) is the earliest reported biochemical event to occur in the Parkinsonian substantia nigra prior to selective loss of complex I (CI) activity associated with the disease believed to contribute to subsequent dopaminergic cell death. Recent studies from our laboratory have demonstrated that acute reduction in both cellular and mitochondrial glutathione levels results in increased oxidative stress and a decrease in mitochondrial function linked to a selective decrease in CI activity through an NO-mediated mechanism (Jha, N.; Jurma, O.; Lalli, G.; Liu, Y.; Pettus, E. H.; Greenamyre, J. T.; Liu, R. M.; Forman, H. J.; Andersen, J. K. Glutathione depletion in PC12 results in selective inhibition of mitochondrial complex I activity. Implications for Parkinson's disease J. Biol. Chem. 275: 26096-26101; 2000. Hsu, M.; Srinivas, B.; Kumar, J.; Subramanian, R.; Andersen, J. Glutathione depletion resulting in selective mitochondrial complex I inhibition in dopaminergic cells is via an NO-mediated pathway not involving peroxynitrite: implications for Parkinson's disease J. Neurochem. 92: 1091-1103.2005.). However, the effect of prolonged glutathione depletion on dopaminergic cells is not known. In this present study, using low concentrations of buthionine-S-sulfoximine, a chemical inhibitor of the de novo glutathione synthesizing enzyme glutamate cysteine ligase, we developed a chronic model in which glutathione depletion in dopaminergic N27 cells for a 7-day period was found to lead to inhibition of CI activity via a peroxynitrite-mediated event which is reversible by the thiol reducing agent, dithiothreitol, and coincides with increased S-nitrosation of mitochondrial proteins.
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