Parkinson's disease (PD) brains show evidence of mitochondrial respiratory Complex I deficiency, oxidative stress, and neuronal death. Complex I-inhibiting neurotoxins, such as the pesticide rotenone, cause neuronal death and parkinsonism in animal models. We have previously shown that DJ-1 over-expression in astrocytes augments their capacity to protect neurons against rotenone, that DJ-1 knock-down impairs astrocyte-mediated neuroprotection against rotenone, and that each process involves astrocyte-released factors. To further investigate the mechanism behind these findings, we developed a high-throughput, plate-based bioassay that can be used to assess how genetic manipulations in astrocytes affect their ability to protect co-cultured neurons. We used this bioassay to show that DJ-1 deficiency-induced impairments in astrocyte-mediated neuroprotection occur solely in the presence of pesticides that inhibit Complex I (rotenone, pyridaben, fenazaquin, and fenpyroximate); not with agents that inhibit Complexes II-V, that primarily induce oxidative stress, or that inhibit the proteasome. This is a potentially PD-relevant finding because pesticide exposure is epidemiologically-linked with an increased risk for PD. Further investigations into our model suggested that astrocytic GSH and heme oxygenase-1 antioxidant systems are not central to the neuroprotective mechanism.
© 2011 The Authors. Journal of Neurochemistry © 2011 International Society for Neurochemistry.