Autophagy is Activated In Vivo during Trimethyltin-Induced Apoptotic Neurodegeneration: A Study in the Rat Hippocampus

Sabrina Ceccariglia, Alessandra Alvino, Aurora Del Fà, Ornella Parolini, Fabrizio Michetti, Carlo Gangitano

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Trimethyltin (TMT) is an organotin compound known to produce significant and selective neuronal degeneration and reactive astrogliosis in the rodent central nervous system. Autophagy is the main cellular mechanism for degrading and recycling protein aggregates and damaged organelles, which in different stress conditions, such as starvation, generally improves cell survival. Autophagy is documented in several pathologic conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases. This study aimed to investigate the autophagy and apoptosis signaling pathways in hippocampal neurons of TMT-treated (Wistar) rats to explore molecular mechanisms involved in toxicant-induced neuronal injury. The microtubule-associated protein light chain (LC3, autophagosome marker) and sequestosome1 (SQSTM1/p62) (substrate of autophagy-mediated degradation) expressions were examined by Western blotting at different time points after intoxication. The results demonstrate that the LC3 II/I ratio significantly increased at 3 and 5 days, and that p62 levels significantly decreased at 7 and 14 days. Immunofluorescence images of LC3/neuronal nuclear antigen (NeuN) showed numerous strongly positive LC3 neurons throughout the hippocampus at 3 and 5 days. The terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay indicated an increase in apoptotic cells starting from 5 days after treatment. In order to clarify apoptotic pathway, immunofluorescence images of apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF)/NeuN did not show nuclear translocation of AIF in neurons. Increased expression of cleaved Caspase-3 was revealed at 5-14 days in all hippocampal regions by Western blotting and immunohistochemistry analyses. These data clearly demonstrate that TMT intoxication induces a marked increase in both autophagy and caspase-dependent apoptosis, and that autophagy occurring just before apoptosis could have a potential role in neuronal loss in this experimental model of neurodegeneration.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 25 2019


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