To date, most in vitro toxicity testing has focused on acute effects of compounds at high concentrations. This testing strategy does not reflect real-life exposures, which might contribute to long-term disease outcome. We used a 3D-human dopaminergic in vitro LUHMES cell line model to determine whether effects of short-term rotenone exposure (100 nM, 24 h) are permanent or reversible. A decrease in complex I activity, ATP, mitochondrial diameter, and neurite outgrowth were observed acutely. After compound removal, complex I activity was still inhibited; however, ATP levels were increased, cells were electrically active and aggregates restored neurite outgrowth integrity and mitochondrial morphology. We identified significant transcriptomic changes after 24 h which were not present 7 days after wash-out. Our results suggest that testing short-term exposures in vitro may capture many acute effects which cells can overcome, missing adaptive processes, and long-term mechanisms. In addition, to study cellular resilience, cells were re-exposed to rotenone after wash-out and recovery period. Pre-exposed cells maintained higher metabolic activity than controls and presented a different expression pattern in genes previously shown to be altered by rotenone. NEF2L2, ATF4, and EAAC1 were downregulated upon single hit on day 14, but unchanged in pre-exposed aggregates. DAT and CASP3 were only altered after re-exposure to rotenone, while TYMS and MLF1IP were downregulated in both single-exposed and pre-exposed aggregates. In summary, our study shows that a human cell-based 3D model can be used to assess cellular adaptation, resilience, and long-term mechanisms relevant to neurodegenerative research.
Keywords: 3D LUHMES; Cellular defence; Gene response; Neurodegeneration; Pesticide; Recovery; Resilience; Rotenone.