Background and purpose: Ischemic brain injury is characterized by 2 temporally distinct but interrelated phases: ischemia (primary energy failure) and reperfusion (secondary energy failure). Loss of cerebral blood flow leads to decreased oxygen levels and energy crisis in the ischemic area, initiating a sequence of pathophysiological events that after reoxygenation lead to ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) brain damage. Mitochondrial impairment and oxidative stress are known to be early events in I/R injury. However, the biochemical mechanisms of mitochondria damage in I/R are not completely understood.
Methods: We used a mouse model of transient focal cerebral ischemia to investigate acute I/R-induced changes of mitochondrial function, focusing on mechanisms of primary and secondary energy failure.
Results: Ischemia induced a reversible loss of flavin mononucleotide from mitochondrial complex I leading to a transient decrease in its enzymatic activity, which is rapidly reversed on reoxygenation. Reestablishing blood flow led to a reversible oxidative modification of mitochondrial complex I thiol residues and inhibition of the enzyme. Administration of glutathione-ethyl ester at the onset of reperfusion prevented the decline of complex I activity and was associated with smaller infarct size and improved neurological outcome, suggesting that decreased oxidation of complex I thiols during I/R-induced oxidative stress may contribute to the neuroprotective effect of glutathione ester.
Conclusions: Our results unveil a key role of mitochondrial complex I in the development of I/R brain injury and provide the mechanistic basis for the well-established mitochondrial dysfunction caused by I/R. Targeting the functional integrity of complex I in the early phase of reperfusion may provide a novel therapeutic strategy to prevent tissue injury after stroke.
Keywords: flavin mononucleotide; glutathione; mitochondria; oxidative stress; reperfusion.
© 2018 The Authors.