Presynaptic nerve terminals require high levels of ATP for the maintenance of synaptic function. Failure of synaptic mitochondria to generate adequate ATP has been implicated as a causative event preceding the loss of synaptic networks in neurodegenerative disease. Endogenous oxidative stress has often been postulated as an etiological basis for this pathology, but has been difficult to test in vivo. Inactivation of the superoxide dismutase gene (Sod2) encoding the chief defense enzyme against mitochondrial superoxide radicals results in neonatal lethality. However, intervention with an SOD mimetic extends the life span of this model and uncovers a neurodegenerative phenotype providing a unique model for the examination of in vivo oxidative stress. We present here studies on synaptic termini isolated from the frontal cortex of Sod2 null mice demonstrating impaired bioenergetic function as a result of mitochondrial oxidative stress. Cortical synaptosomes from Sod2 null mice demonstrate a severe decline in mitochondrial spare respiratory capacity in response to physiological demand induced by mitochondrial respiratory chain uncoupling with FCCP or by plasma membrane depolarization induced by 4-aminopyridine treatment. However, Sod2 null animals compensate for impaired oxidative metabolism in part by the Pasteur effect allowing for normal neurotransmitter release at the synapse, setting up a potentially detrimental energetic paradigm. The results of this study demonstrate that high-throughput respirometry is a facile method for analyzing specific regions of the brain in transgenic models and can uncover bioenergetic deficits in subcellular regions due to endogenous oxidative stress.
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