Nitric oxide impairs mitochondrial movement in cortical neurons during hypoxia

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Cortical nitric oxide (NO) production increases during hypoxia/ischemia in the immature brain and is associated with both neurotoxicity and mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondrial redistribution within the cell is critical to normal neuronal function, however, the effects of hypoxia on mitochondrial dynamics are not known. This study tested the hypothesis that hypoxia impairs mitochondrial movement via NO-mediated pathways. Fluorescently labeled mitochondria were studied using time-lapse digital video microscopy in cultured cortical neurons exposed either to hypoxia/re-oxygenation or to diethyleneamine/nitric oxide adduct, DETA-NO (100–500 μM). Two NO synthase inhibitors, were used to determine NO specificity. Mitochondrial mean velocity, the percentage of movement (i.e. the time spent moving) and mitochondrial morphology were analyzed. Exposure to hypoxia reduced mitochondrial movement to 10.4 ± 1.3% at 0 h and 7.4 ± 1.7% at 1 h of re-oxygenation, versus 25.6 ± 1.4% in controls (p < 0.05). Mean mitochondrial velocity (μm s−1) decreased from 0.374 ± 0.01 in controls to 0.146 ± 0.01 at 0 h and 0.177 ± 0.02 at 1 h of re-oxygenation (p < 0.001). Exposure to DETA-NO resulted in a significant decrease in mean mitochondrial velocity at all tested time points. Treatment with NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) prevented the hypoxia-induced decrease in mitochondrial movement at 0 h (30.1 ± 1.6%) and at 1 h (26.1 ± 9%) of re-oxygenation. Exposure to either hypoxia/re-oxygenation or NO also resulted in the rapid decrease in mitochondrial size. Both hypoxia and NO exposure result in impaired mitochondrial movement and morphology in cultured cortical neurons. As the effect of hypoxia on mitochondrial movement and morphology can be partially prevented by a nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitor, these data suggest that an NO-mediated pathway is at least partially involved.

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