Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a reactive oxygen species, responsible for cytotoxic damage through the formation of hydroxyl radicals. Dopamine (DA) neurones of the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) are highly sensitive to metabolic stress, and they typically respond to energy deprivation with membrane hyperpolarization, mainly through opening of ATP-dependent K+ channels. Accordingly, H2O2 (3 mM) induced a tolbutamide-sensitive outward current in DA neurones. Conversely, in a hypoxic medium, H2O2 reverted membrane hyperpolarization, which is associated with oxygen deprivation in DA neurones, restored their action potential firing, and reduced the hypoxia-mediated outward current in a concentration-dependent manner, between 0.1 and 3 mM (IC50 0.6 ± 0.1 mM). Notably, H2O2 did not counteract membrane hyperpolarization associated with hypoglycaemia, moreover, when catalase was inhibited with 3-amino-1,2,4-triazole (3-AT; 30 mM), H2O2 did not reduce hypoxia-mediated outward current. The counteracting action of H2O2 on hypoxia-mediated effects was further confirmed. by single-unit extracellular recordings of presumed DA neurones in acute midbrain slices preparations, using a planar multi-electrode array device. Whilst a prolonged period of hypoxia (40 min) caused firing suppression, which did not recover after perfusion in normoxic conditions, the presence of H2O2 (3 mM) during this prolonged hypoxic period rescued most of the neurones from irreversible firing inhibition. Accordingly, morphological studies showed that H2O2 counteracts the cytochrome c release provoked by prolonged hypoxic treatment. Taken together, our data suggest that H2O2 prevents the metabolic stress of DA neurones induced by hypoxia by serving as a supplementary source of molecular oxygen, through its degradation by catalase.
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