Milena Merlo Pich

University of Bologna, Bolonia, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

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Publications (25)85.72 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The mitochondrial respiratory chain is a powerful source of reactive oxygen species (ROS), considered as the pathogenic agent of many diseases and of aging. We have investigated the role of Complex I in superoxide radical production and found by combined use of specific inhibitors of Complex I that the one-electron donor in the Complex to oxygen is a redox center located prior to the sites where three different types of coenzyme Q (CoQ) competitors bind, to be identified with an Fe-S cluster, most probably N2, or possibly an ubisemiquinone intermediate insensitive to all the above inhibitors. Short-chain coenzyme Q analogues enhance superoxide formation, presumably by mediating electron transfer from N2 to oxygen. The clinically used CoQ analogue idebenone is particularly effective, raising doubts about its safety as a drug. The mitochondrial theory of aging considers somatic mutations of mitochondrial DNA induced by ROS as the primary cause of energy decline; in rat liver mitochondria, Complex I appears to be most affected by aging and to become strongly rate limiting for electron transfer. Mitochondrial energetics is also deranged in human platelets upon aging, as demonstrated by the decreased Pasteur effect (enhancement of lactate production by respiratory inhibitors). Cells counteract oxidative stress by antioxidants: CoQ is the only lipophilic antioxidant to be biosynthesized. Exogenous CoQ, however, protects cells from oxidative stress by conversion into its reduced antioxidant form by cellular reductases. The plasma membrane oxidoreductase and DT-diaphorase are two such systems: likewise, they are overexpressed under oxidative stress conditions.
    Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 01/2006; 959(1):199 - 213. DOI:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2002.tb02094.x · 4.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mitochondria are known to be strong producers of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and, at the same time, particularly susceptible to the oxidative damage produced by their action on lipids, proteins, and DNA. In particular, damage to mtDNA induces alterations to the polypeptides encoded by mtDNA in the respiratory complexes, with consequent decrease of electron transfer, leading to further production of ROS and thus establishing a vicious circle of oxidative stress and energetic decline. This deficiency in mitochondrial energetic capacity is considered the cause of aging and age-related degenerative diseases. Complex I would be the enzyme most affected by ROS, since it contains seven of the 13 subunits encoded by mtDNA. Accordingly, we found that complex I activity is significantly affected by aging in rat brain and liver mitochondria as well as in human platelets. Moreover, due to its rate control over aerobic respiration, such alterations are reflected on the entire oxidative phosphorylation system. We also investigated the role of mitochondrial complex I in superoxide production and found that the one-electron donor to oxygen is most probably the Fe-S cluster N2. Short chain coenzyme Q (CoQ) analogues enhance ROS formation, presumably by mediating electron transfer from N2 to oxygen, both in bovine heart SMP and in cultured HL60 cells. Nevertheless, we have accumulated much evidence of the antioxidant role of reduced CoQ(10) in several cellular systems and demonstrated the importance of DT-diaphorase and other internal cellular reductases to reduce exogenous CoQ(10) after incorporation.
    Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 05/2004; 1011(1):86-100. DOI:10.1196/annals.1293.010 · 4.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We studied the effect of ageing on the mRNA levels of mitochondria-encoded polypeptides in human platelets. We used quantitative real-time reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to investigate the expression of selected cytochrome c oxidase (COX) genes (subunits I and III) and Complex I genes (subunits reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) dehydrogenase (ND)1 and (ND)5 in platelets from young and aged healthy subjects. Northern blot analysis confirmed the PCR results. COX I expression is higher than that of COX III in both young and aged platelets. A significant increase of transcripts for Complex I was found during ageing. On the contrary, the mRNA levels of the two COX subunits did not significantly vary during ageing.
    FEBS Letters 02/2004; 558(1-3):19-22. DOI:10.1016/S0014-5793(03)01520-5 · 3.34 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Dichlorophenol indophenol (DCIP) reduction by intracellualr pyridine nucleotides was investigated in two different lines of cultured cells characterized by enhanced production of reacive oxygen species (ROS) with respect to suitable controls. The first line denominated XTC-UC1 was derived from a metastasis of an oxyphilic thyroid tumor characterized by mitochondrial hyperplasia and compared with a line (B-CPAP) derived from a papillary thyroid carcinoma with normal mitochondrial mass. The second line (170 MN) was a cybrid line derived from rho0 cells from an osteosarcoma line (143B) fused with platelets from a patient with a nucleotide 9957 mutation in mitochondrial DNA (encoding for cytochrome c oxidase subunit III) in comparison with the parent 143B line. The experimental lines had no major decreases of electron transfer activities with respect to the controls; both of them, however, exhibited an increased peroxide production. The XTC-UC1 cell line exhibited enhanced activity with respect to control of dicoumarol-sensitive DCIP reduction, identified with membrane bound DT-diaphorase, whereas dicoumarol insensitive DCIP reduction was not significantly changed. On the other hand the mtDNA mutated cybrids exhibited a strong increase of both dicoumarol sensitive and insensitive DCIP reduction. The results suggest that enhanced oxidative stress and not deficient respiratory activity per se is the stimulus triggering over-expression of plasma membrane oxidative enzymes.
    BioFactors 02/2004; 20(4):251-8. · 3.00 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Dichlorophenol indophenol (DCIP) reduction by intracellualr pyridine nucleotides was investigated in two different lines of cultured cells characterized by enhanced production of reacive oxygen species (ROS) with respect to suitable controls. The first line denominated XTC-UC1 was derived from a metastasis of an oxyphilic thyroid tumor characterized by mitochondrial hyperplasia and compared with a line (B-CPAP) derived from a papillary thyroid carcinoma with normal mitochondrial mass. The second line (170 MN) was a cybrid line derived from ρ0 cells from an osteosarcoma line (143B) fused with platelets from a patient with a nucleotide 9957 mutation in mitochondrial DNA (encoding for cytochrome c oxidase subunit III) in comparison with the parent 143B line. The experimental lines had no major decreases of electron transfer activities with respect to the controls; both of them, however, exhibited an increased peroxide production.The XTC-UC1 cell line exhibited enhanced activity with respect to control of dicoumarol-sensitive DCIP reduction, identified with membrane bound DT-diaphorase, whereas dicoumarol insensitive DCIP reduction was not significantly changed. On the other hand the mtDNA mutated cybrids exhibited a strong increase of both dicoumarol sensitive and insensitive DCIP reduction.The results suggest that enhanced oxidative stress and not deficient respiratory activity per se is the stimulus triggering over-expression of plasma membrane oxidative enzymes.
    BioFactors 01/2004; 20(4):265 - 272. DOI:10.1002/biof.5520200408 · 3.00 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The mitochondrial respiratory chain is a powerful source of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which is considered as the pathogenic agent of many diseases and of aging. We have investigated the role of complex I in superoxide radical production and found by the combined use of specific inhibitors of complex I that the one-electron donor to oxygen in the complex is a redox center located prior to the sites where three different types of Coenzyme Q (CoQ) competitors bind, to be identified with an Fe-S cluster, most probably N2, or possibly an ubisemiquinone intermediate insensitive to all the above inhibitors. Short-chain Coenzyme Q analogs enhance superoxide formation, presumably by mediating electron transfer from N2 to oxygen. The clinically used CoQ analog, idebenone, is particularly effective, raising doubts on its safety as a drug. Cells counteract oxidative stress by antioxidants. CoQ is the only lipophilic antioxidant to be biosynthesized. Exogenous CoQ, however, protects cells from oxidative stress by conversion into its reduced antioxidant form by cellular reductases. The plasma membrane oxidoreductase and DT-diaphorase are two such systems, likewise, they are overexpressed under oxidative stress conditions.
    Experimental Biology and Medicine 06/2003; 228(5):506-13. · 2.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The conditions under which Coenzyme Q (CoQ) may protect platelet mitochondrial function of transfusional buffy coats from aging and from induced oxidative stress were investigated. The Pasteur effect, i.e. the enhancement of lactate production after inhibition of mitochondrial respiratory chain, was exploited as a marker of mitochondrial function as it allows to calculate the ratio of mitochondrial ATP to glycolytic ATP. Reduced CoQ10 improves platelet mitochondrial function of transfusional buffy coats and protects the cells from induced oxidative stress. Oxidized CoQ is usually less effective, despite the presence, shown for the first time in this study, of quinone reductase activities in the platelet plasma membranes. The addition of a CoQ reducing system to platelets is effective in enhancing the protection of platelet mitochondrial function from the oxidative stress. The results support on one hand a possibility of protection of mitochondrial function in aging by exogenous CoQ intake, on the other a possible application in protection of transfusional buffy coats from storage conditions and oxidative deterioration.
    Free Radical Research 05/2002; 36(4):429-36. DOI:10.1080/10715760290021289 · 2.99 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The mitochondrial respiratory chain is a powerful source of reactive oxygen species (ROS), considered as the pathogenic agent of many diseases and of aging. We have investigated the role of Complex I in superoxide radical production and found by combined use of specific inhibitors of Complex I that the one-electron donor in the Complex to oxygen is a redox center located prior to the sites where three different types of coenzyme Q (CoQ) competitors bind, to be identified with an Fe-S cluster, most probably N2, or possibly an ubisemiquinone intermediate insensitive to all the above inhibitors. Short-chain coenzyme Q analogues enhance superoxide formation, presumably by mediating electron transfer from N2 to oxygen. The clinically used CoQ analogue idebenone is particularly effective, raising doubts about its safety as a drug. The mitochondrial theory of aging considers somatic mutations of mitochondrial DNA induced by ROS as the primary cause of energy decline; in rat liver mitochondria, Complex I appears to be most affected by aging and to become strongly rate limiting for electron transfer. Mitochondrial energetics is also deranged in human platelets upon aging, as demonstrated by the decreased Pasteur effect (enhancement of lactate production by respiratory inhibitors). Cells counteract oxidative stress by antioxidants: CoQ is the only lipophilic antioxidant to be biosynthesized. Exogenous CoQ, however, protects cells from oxidative stress by conversion into its reduced antioxidant form by cellular reductases. The plasma membrane oxidoreductase and DT-diaphorase are two such systems: likewise, they are overexpressed under oxidative stress conditions.
    Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 05/2002; 959:199-213. · 4.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We have investigated the mitochondrial energy state in human platelets of young (19-30 years old) and aged individuals (65-87 years old) exploiting the Pasteur effect, i.e. stimulation of lactate production by incubation of the purified platelets with the mitochondrial respiratory chain inhibitor, antimycin A. This assay allows the determination of mitochondrial function with respect to glycolysis, and the ratio of mitochondrial adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to glycolytic ATP. A significant increase of basal, non-stimulated lactate production and decrease of the stimulation by antimycin A were observed in the older individuals, suggesting that the impairment of oxidative phosphorylation detectable in post-mitotic tissues of aged individuals can be observed also in easily collectable blood cells.
    Mechanisms of Ageing and Development 07/2001; 122(8):823-33. DOI:10.1016/S0047-6374(01)00239-1 · 3.51 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mitochondria are strongly involved in the production of reactive oxygen species, considered as the pathogenic agent of many diseases and of aging. The mitochondrial theory of aging considers somatic mutations of mitochondrial DNA induced by oxygen radicals as the primary cause of energy decline; experimentally, complex I appears to be mostly affected and to become strongly rate limiting for electron transfer. Mitochondrial bioenergetics is also deranged in human platelets upon aging, as shown by the decreased Pasteur effect (enhancement of lactate production by respiratory chain inhibition). Cells counteract oxidative stress by antioxidants; among lipophilic antioxidants, coenzyme Q is the only one of endogenous biosynthesis. Exogenous coenzyme Q, however, protects cells from oxidative stress by conversion into its reduced antioxidant form by cellular reductases.
    Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 09/2000; 1459(2-3):397-404. DOI:10.1016/S0005-2728(00)00177-8 · 4.66 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In a surgical model of liver ischemia lipid peroxidation occurs, as shown by increase of lipid peroxidation end products, endogenous CoQ9 is oxidized and mitochondrial respiration is lowered; however, pre-treatment of the rats by i.p. injection of CoQ10 for 14 days normalizes the above parameters, presumably by way of the observed high extent of reduction of the incorporated quinone; moreover, liver homogenates of the CoQ10-treated rats are more resistant than those of non-treated rats to oxidative stress induced by an azido free radical initiator. This preliminary study suggests that CoQ10 pre-treatment can be of beneficial effect against oxidative damage during liver surgery transplantation.
    BioFactors 02/1999; 9(2-4):345-9. · 3.00 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In a surgical model of liver ischemia lipid peroxidation occurs, as shown by increase of lipid peroxidation end products, endogenous CoQ9 is oxidized and mitochondrial respiration is lowered; however, pre-treatment of the rats by i.p. injection of CoQ10 for 14 days normalizes the above parameters, presumably by way of the observed high extent of reduction of the incorporated quinone; moreover, liver homogenates of the CoQ10-treated rats are more resistant than those of non-treated rats to oxidative stress induced by an azido free radical initiator. This preliminary study suggests that CoQ10 pre-treatment can be of beneficial effect against oxidative damage during liver surgery transplantation.
    BioFactors 01/1999; 9(2‐4):345 - 349. DOI:10.1002/biof.5520090234 · 3.00 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This study aimed to assess platelets as a possible model for screening the accumulation of mitochondrial DNA mutations, particularly during normal ageing. For this purpose we isolated platelets from young and old donors selected by lack of systemic and haematological diseases. We studied the accumulation of a particular deletion (4977-bp deletion) that usually accumulates in an age-related manner in different post-mitotic tissues, such as brain, heart and skeletal muscle, and in some non-post-mitotic tissues (skin, liver). Using different primers, we failed to detect this particular species of deletion in platelets both from young and old individuals. However, we cannot exclude the presence of other species of deletions or point mutations affecting the mitochondrial DNA in platelets during the aging process.
    Mechanisms of Ageing and Development 05/1998; 101(3):269-75. DOI:10.1016/S0047-6374(97)00181-4 · 3.51 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Apoptosis and aging share common mechanisms in oxidative stress and mitochondrial involvement. Treatment of cultured neuroblastoma cells with a radical initiator induced apoptosis; raise in hydrogen peroxide and release of cytochrome c from mitochondria preceded collapse of mitochondrial potential and cell death. In rat hepatocytes treated with adriamycin incubation with exogenous Coenzyme Q10 counteracted the drug-induced increase of hydrogen peroxide and the fall of the mitochondrial potential, thus demonstrating the quinone antioxidant effect. Complex I activity and its rotenone sensitivity decreased in brain cortex non-synaptic mitochondria from old rats; a 5 kb mitochondrial DNA deletion was found only in the old rats. A similar behavior was found in human platelets from old individuals. The postulated energy decline was confirmed by the inhibitor sensitivities of platelet aggregation and lactate production. The lack of the 5 kb deletion in platelets throws doubts on mitochondrial DNA lesions as the only causes of mitochondrial dysfunction in aging.
    BioFactors 02/1998; 8(3-4):195-204. · 3.00 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Apoptosis and aging share common mechanisms in oxidative stress and mitochondrial involvement. Treatment of cultured neuroblastoma cells with a radical initiator induced apoptosis; raise in hydrogen peroxide and release of cytochrome c from mitochondria preceded collapse of mitochondrial potential and cell death. In rat hepatocytes treated with adriamycin incubation with exogenous Coenzyme Q10 counteracted the drug-induced increase of hydrogen peroxide and the fall of the mitochondrial potential, thus demonstrating the quinone antioxidant effect.Complex I activity and its rotenone sensitivity decreased in brain cortex non-synaptic mitochondria from old rats; a 5 kb mitochondrial DNA deletion was found only in the old rats. A similar behavior was found in human platelets from old individuals. The postulated energy decline was confirmed by the inhibitor sensitivities of platelet aggregation and lactate production. The lack of the 5 kb deletion in platelets throws doubts on mitochondrial DNA lesions as the only causes of mitochondrial dysfunction in aging.
    BioFactors 01/1998; 8(3‐4):195 - 204. DOI:10.1002/biof.5520080305 · 3.00 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: According to the mitochondrial theory of aging, it is expected that in postmitotic tissues, such as nervous system, an accumulation of damage to mitochondrial DNA could lead to a progressive failure of mitochondrial function during senescence. NADH-Coenzyme Q reductase (Complex I) activity should be severely affected since 7 subunits of this enzymatic complex are encoded by mitochondrial DNA. We decided to investigate the modifications occurring to this particular complex during aging in two different neuronal populations from aged rats, using rotenone sensitivity as a functional parameter of the subunits encoded by mitochondrial DNA. In order to have an easy model to study mitochondrial modifications during senescence and in other neurodegenerative disorders, we also investigated mitochondrial membranes from platelets of young and old individuals. In all systems investigated, a decease of rotenone sensitivity in aging was observed.
    Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics 01/1998; 26:385-392. DOI:10.1016/S0167-4943(98)80056-3 · 1.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: According to the 'mitochondrial theory of aging' it is expected that the activity of NADH Coenzyme Q reductase (Complex I) would be most severely affected among mitochondrial enzymes, since mitochondrial DNA encodes for 7 subunits of this enzyme. Being these subunits the site of binding of the acceptor substrate (Coenzyme Q) and of most inhibitors of the enzyme, it is also expected that subtle kinetic changes of quinone affinity and enzyme inhibition could develop in aging before an overall loss of activity would be observed. The overall activity of Complex I was decreased in several tissues from aged rats, nevertheless it was found that direct assay of Complex I using artificial quinone acceptors may underevaluate the enzyme activity. The most acceptable results could be obtained by applying the 'pool equation' to calculate Complex I activity from aerobic NADH oxidation; using this method it was found that the decrease in Complex I activity in mitochondria from old animals was greater than the activity calculated by direct assay of NADH Coenzyme Q reductase. A decrease of NADH oxidation and its rotenone sensitivity was observed in nonsynaptic mitochondria, but not in synaptic 'light' and 'heavy' mitochondria of brain cortex from aged rats. In a study of Complex I activity in human platelet membranes we found that the enzyme activity was unchanged but the titre for half-inhibition by rotenone was significantly increased in aged individuals and proposed this change as a suitable biomarker of aging and age-related diseases.
    Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry 10/1997; 174(1-2):329-33. DOI:10.1023/A:1006854619336 · 2.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The levels of coenzyme Q were determined in blood plasma and regenerating liver mitochondria of hepatectomized rats, using as controls either sham-operated or non-operated animals. Mitochondrial CoQ9 content increased in sham-operated rats, whereas it was significantly lower in hepatectomized with respect to non-operated animals. Plasma CoQ9 levels decreased dramatically in hepatectomized animals, but increased strongly in sham-operated in comparison with non-operated rats. The data suggest the possibility of a rate-limiting step in CoQ biosynthesis in hepatectomized animals.
    Molecular Aspects of Medicine 02/1997; 18 Suppl:S275-8. DOI:10.1016/S0098-2997(97)00026-5 · 10.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Coenzyme Q content was monitored in blood plasma and regenerating liver mitochondria of hepatectomized rats, using as controls either sham-operated or non-operated animals. Mitochondrial CoQ9 content increased in sham-operated rats, whilst it was significantly lower in hepatectomized in comparison with non-operated animals at all considered times. On the other hand plasma CoQ9 levels dramatically decreased in hepatectomized animals, while strongly increased in sham-operated in comparison with non-operated rats. The quinone decrease in hepatectomized animals is likely to be due to the attainment of a rate-limiting step in CoQ biosynthesis.
    Biochemistry and molecular biology international 09/1996; 39(6):1135-40. DOI:10.1080/15216549600201312
  • Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 05/1996; 60(9). · 4.25 Impact Factor