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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2012, Article ID 136063, 14 pages
Research Article

Mitochondrial Electron Transport Chain in Heavy Metal-Induced Neurotoxicity: Effects of Cadmium, Mercury, and Copper

I. M. Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry of Russian Academy of Sciences, Thorez pr. 44, 194223 Saint-Petersburg, Russia

Received 31 October 2011; Accepted 15 December 2011

Academic Editor: Jeroen Hoozemans

Copyright © 2012 Elena A. Belyaeva et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


To clarify the role of mitochondrial electron transport chain (mtETC) in heavy-metal-induced neurotoxicity, we studied action of Cd2+, Hg2+, and Cu2+ on cell viability, intracellular reactive oxygen species formation, respiratory function, and mitochondrial membrane potential of rat cell line PC12. As found, the metals produced, although in a different way, dose- and time-dependent changes of all these parameters. Importantly, Cd2+ beginning from 10 [mu]M and already at short incubation time (3 h) significantly inhibited the FCCP-uncoupled cell respiration; besides, practically the complete inhibition of the respiration was reached after 3 h incubation with 50 [mu]M Hg2+ or 500 [mu]M Cd2+, whereas even after 48 h exposure with 500 [mu]M Cu2+, only a 50% inhibition of the respiration occurred. Against the Cd2+-induced cell injury, not only different antioxidants and mitochondrial permeability transition pore inhibitors were protective but also such mtETC effectors as FCCP and stigmatellin (complex III inhibitor). However, all mtETC effectors used did not protect against the Hg2+- or Cu2+-induced cell damage. Notably, stigmatellin was shown to be one of the strongest protectors against the Cd2+-induced cell damage, producing a 15–20% increase in the cell viability. The mechanisms of the mtETC involvement in the heavy-metal-induced mitochondrial membrane permeabilization and cell death are discussed.