Mitochondrial respiratory complex I regulates neutrophil activation and severity of lung injury

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2008 Jul 15;178(2):168-79. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200710-1602OC. Epub 2008 Apr 24.


Rationale: Mitochondria have important roles in intracellular energy generation, modulation of apoptosis, and redox-dependent intracellular signaling. Although reactive oxygen species (ROS) participate in the regulation of intracellular signaling pathways, including activation of nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB, there is only limited information concerning the role of mitochondrially derived ROS in modulating cellular activation and tissue injury associated with acute inflammatory processes.

Objectives: To examine involvement of the mitochondrial electron transport chain complex I on LPS-mediated NF-kappaB activation in neutrophils and neutrophil-dependent acute lung injury.

Methods: Neutrophils incubated with rotenone or metformin were treated with bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to determine the effects of mitochondrial complex I inhibition on intracellular concentrations of reactive oxygen species, NF-kappaB activation, and proinflammatory cytokine expression. Acute lung injury was produced by intratracheal injection of LPS into control, metformin, or rotenone-treated mice.

Measurements and main results: Inhibition of complex I with either rotenone or the antihyperglycemic agent metformin was associated with increased intracellular levels of both superoxide and hydrogen peroxide, as well as inhibition of LPS-induced I kappaB-alpha degradation, NF-kappaB nuclear accumulation, and proinflammatory cytokine production. Treatment of LPS-exposed mice with rotenone or metformin resulted in inhibition of complex I in the lungs, as well as diminished severity of lung injury.

Conclusions: These results demonstrate that mitochondrial complex I plays an important role in modulating Toll-like receptor 4-mediated neutrophil activation and suggest that metformin, as well as other agents that inhibit mitochondrial complex I, may be useful in the prevention or treatment of acute inflammatory processes in which activated neutrophils play a major role, such as acute lung injury.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Electron Transport Complex I / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Electron Transport Complex I / immunology*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Male
  • Metformin / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mitochondria / immunology*
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Neutrophil Activation / drug effects
  • Neutrophil Activation / immunology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / immunology*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Rotenone / pharmacology
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / immunology
  • Uncoupling Agents / pharmacology


  • Cytokines
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • NF-kappa B
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Uncoupling Agents
  • Rotenone
  • Metformin
  • Electron Transport Complex I