Autophagy is a regulated, intracellular degradation process that delivers unnecessary or dysfunctional cargo to the lysosome. Autophagy has been viewed as an adaptive survival response to various stresses, whereas in other cases, it promotes cell death. Therefore, both deficient and excessive autophagy may lead to cell death. In this study, we specifically attempted to explore whether and how dysregulated autophagy contributes to caspase-dependent neuronal cell death induced by the neurotoxin 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA). Ultrastructural and biochemical analyses indicated that MN9D neuronal cells and primary cultures of cortical neurons challenged with 6-OHDA displayed typical features of autophagy. Cotreatment with chloroquine and monitoring autophagic flux by a tandem mRFP-EGFP-tagged LC3 probe indicated that the autophagic phenomena were primarily caused by dysregulated autophagic flux. Consequently, cotreatment with an antioxidant but not with a pan-caspase inhibitor significantly blocked 6-OHDA-stimulated dysregulated autophagy. These results indicated that 6-OHDA-induced generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) played a critical role in triggering neuronal death by causing dysregulated autophagy and subsequent caspase-dependent apoptosis. The results of the MTT reduction, caspase-3 activation, and TUNEL assays indicated that pharmacological inhibition of autophagy using 3-methyladenine or deletion of the autophagy-related gene Atg5 significantly inhibited 6-OHDA-induced cell death. Taken together, our results suggest that abnormal induction of autophagic flux promotes apoptotic neuronal cell death, and that the treatments limiting dysregulated autophagy may have a strong neuroprotective potential.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Cell Biology
- Cancer Research