Glutathione-Mediated Neuroprotection Against Methylmercury Neurotoxicity in Cortical Culture is Dependent on MRP1

Travis Rush, Marquette University
Xiaoqian Liu, Marquette University
Andrew B. Nowakowski, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
David H. Petering, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
Doug Lobner, Marquette University

NeuroToxicology, Vol. 33, No. 3 (June 2012): 476-481. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuro.2012.03.004.


Methylmercury (MeHg) exposure at high concentrations poses significant neurotoxic threat to humans worldwide. The present study investigated the mechanisms of glutathione-mediated attenuation of MeHg neurotoxicity in primary cortical culture. MeHg (5 μM) caused depletion of mono- and disulfide glutathione in neuronal, glial and mixed cultures. Supplementation with exogenous glutathione, specifically glutathione monoethyl ester (GSHME) protected against the MeHg induced neuronal death. MeHg caused increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation measured by dichlorodihydrofluorescein (DCF) fluorescence with an early increase at 30 min and a late increase at 6 h. This oxidative stress was prevented by the presence of either GSHME or the free radical scavenger, trolox. While trolox was capable of quenching the ROS, it showed no neuroprotection. Exposure to MeHg at subtoxic concentrations (3 μM) caused an increase in system xc mediated 14C-cystine uptake that was blocked by the protein synthesis inhibitor, cycloheximide (CHX). Interestingly, blockade of the early ROS burst prevented the functional upregulation of system xc. Inhibition of multidrug resistance protein-1 (MRP1) potentiated MeHg neurotoxicity and increased cellular MeHg. Taken together, these data suggest glutathione offers neuroprotection against MeHg toxicity in a manner dependent on MRP1-mediated efflux.