Ischemic Delayed Neuronal Death: A Mitochondrial Hypothesis


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Abstract

Background A brief period of global brain ischemia causes cell death in hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons days after reperfusion in rodents and humans. Other neurons are much less vulnerable. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as delayed neuronal death, but the cause has not been fully understood although many mechanisms have been proposed.Summary of Review Hippocampal CA1 neuronal death usually occurs 3 to 4 days after an initial ischemic insult. Such a delay is essential for the mechanism of this type of cell death. Previous hypotheses have not well explained the reason for the delay and the exact mechanism of the cell death, but a disturbance of mitochondrial gene expression could be a possibility. Reductions of mitochondrial RNA level and the activity of a mitochondrial protein, encoded partly by mitochondrial DNA, occurred exclusively in CA1 neurons at the early stage of reperfusion and were aggravated over time. In contrast, the activity of a nuclear DNA-encoded mitochondrial enzyme and the level of mitochondrial DNA remained intact in CA1 cells until death. Immunohistochemical staining for cytoplasmic dynein and kinesin, which are involved in the shuttle movement of mitochondria between cell body and the periphery, also showed early and progressive decreases after ischemia, and the decreases were found exclusively in the vulnerable CA1 subfield.Conclusions A disturbance of mitochondrial DNA expression may be caused by dysfunction of the mitochondrial shuttle system and could cause progressive failure of energy production of CA1 neurons that eventually results in cell death. Thus, the mitochondrial hypothesis could provide a new and exciting potential for elucidating the mechanism of the delayed neuronal death of hippocampal CA1 neurons.(Stroke. 1995;26:1478-1489.)

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