The Journal of biological chemistry

Paraquat neurotoxicity is mediated by a Bak-dependent mechanism.

PMID 18056701


Paraquat (PQ) causes selective degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta, reproducing an important pathological feature of Parkinson disease. Oxidative stress, c-Jun N-terminal kinase activation, and alpha-synuclein aggregation are each induced by PQ, but details of the cell death mechanisms involved remain unclear. We have identified a Bak-dependent cell death mechanism that is required for PQ-induced neurotoxicity. PQ induced morphological and biochemical features that were consistent with apoptosis, including dose-dependent cytochrome c release, with subsequent caspase-3 and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase cleavage. Changes in nuclear morphology and loss of viability were blocked by cycloheximide, caspase inhibitor, and Bcl-2 overexpression. Evaluation of Bcl-2 family members showed that PQ induced high levels of Bak, Bid, BNip3, and Noxa. Small interfering RNA-mediated knockdown of BNip3, Noxa, and Bak each protected cells from PQ, but Bax knockdown did not. Finally, we tested the sensitivity of Bak-deficient mice and found them to be resistant to PQ treatments that depleted tyrosine hydroxylase immuno-positive neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta of wild-type mice.

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