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ABSTRACT: Astrocytes protect neurons and oligodendrocytes by buffering ions, neurotransmitters, and providing metabolic support. However, astrocytes are also vulnerable to oxidative stress, which may affect their protective and supportive functions. This paper examines the influence of calcium and iron on astrocytes and determines if cell death could be mediated by mitochondrial dysfunction. We provide evidence that the events associated with peroxide-induced death of astrocytes involves generation of superoxide at the site of mitochondria, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, and depletion of ATP. These events are iron-mediated, with iron loading exacerbating and iron chelation reducing oxidative stress. Iron chelation maintained the mitochondrial membrane potential, prevented peroxide-induced elevations in superoxide levels, and preserved ATP levels. Although increased intracellular calcium occurred after oxidative stress to astrocytes, the calcium increase was not necessary for collapse of mitochondrial membrane potential. Indeed, when astrocytes were oxidatively stressed in the absence of extracellular calcium, cell death was enhanced, mitochondrial membrane potential collapsed at an earlier time point, and superoxide levels increased. Additionally, our data do not support opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore as part of the mechanism of peroxide-induced oxidative stress of astrocytes. We conclude that the increase in intracellular calcium following peroxide exposure does not mediate astrocytic death and may even provide a protective function. Finally, the vulnerability of astrocytes and their mitochondria to oxidative stress correlates more closely with iron availability than with increased intracellular calcium.
Journal of Neuroscience Research 04/1999; 55(6):674-86. · 2.97 Impact Factor