Dual effect of methylglyoxal on the intracellular Ca2+ signaling and neurite outgrowth in mouse sensory neurons

Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2012 Aug;32(6):1047-57. doi: 10.1007/s10571-012-9823-5. Epub 2012 Mar 9.


The formation of advanced glycation end products is one of the major factors involved in diabetic neuropathy, aging, and neurodegenerative diseases. Reactive carbonyl compounds, such as methylglyoxal (MG), play a key role in cross-linking to various proteins in the extracellular matrix, especially in neurons, which have a high rate of oxidative metabolism. The MG effect was tested on dorsal root ganglia primary neurons in cultures from adult male Balb/c mice. Lower MG doses contribute to an increased adherence of neurons on their support and an increased glia proliferation, as proved by MTS assay and bright-field microscopy. Time-lapse fluorescence microscopy by Fura-2 was performed for monitoring the relative fluorescence ratio changes (ΔR/R(0)) upon depolarization and immunofluorescence staining for quantifying the degree of neurites extension. The relative change in fluorescence ratio modifies the amplitude and dispersion depending on the subtype of sensory neurons, the medium-sized neurons are more sensitive to MG treatment when compared to small ones. Low MG concentrations (0-150 μM) increase neuronal viability, excitability, and the capacity of neurite extension, while higher concentrations (250-750 μM) are cytotoxic in a dose-dependent manner. In our opinion, MG could be metabolized by the glyoxalase system inside sensory neurons up to a threshold concentration, afterwards disturbing the cell equilibrium. Our study points out that MG has a dual effect concentration dependent on the neuronal viability, excitability, and neurite outgrowth, but only the excitability changes are soma-sized dependent. In conclusion, our data may partially explain the distinct neuronal modifications in various neurodegenerative pathologies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling / drug effects*
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / drug effects
  • Ganglia, Spinal / metabolism
  • Intracellular Space / drug effects
  • Intracellular Space / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neurites / drug effects
  • Neurites / metabolism*
  • Potassium Chloride / pharmacology
  • Pyruvaldehyde / pharmacology*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / drug effects
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / metabolism*


  • Potassium Chloride
  • Pyruvaldehyde