Dimethyl sulfoxide damages mitochondrial integrity and membrane potential in cultured astrocytes

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Abstract

Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is a polar organic solvent that is used to dissolve neuroprotective or neurotoxic agents in neuroscience research. However, DMSO itself also has pharmacological and pathological effects on the nervous system. Astrocytes play a central role in maintaining brain homeostasis, but the effect and mechanism of DMSO on astrocytes has not been studied. The present study showed that exposure of astrocyte cultures to 1% DMSO for 24 h did not significantly affect cell survival, but decreased cell viability and glial glutamate transporter expression, and caused mitochondrial swelling, membrane potential impairment and reactive oxygen species production, and subsequent cytochrome c release and caspase-3 activation. DMSO at concentrations of 5% significantly inhibited cell variability and promoted apoptosis of astrocytes, accompanied with more severe mitochondrial damage. These results suggest that mitochondrial impairment is a primary event in DMSO-induced astrocyte toxicity. The potential cytotoxic effects on astrocytes need to be carefully considered during investigating neuroprotective or neurotoxic effects of hydrophobic agents dissolved by DMSO.

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Yuan, C., Gao, J., Guo, J., Bai, L., Marshall, C., Cai, Z., … Xiao, M. (2014). Dimethyl sulfoxide damages mitochondrial integrity and membrane potential in cultured astrocytes. PLoS ONE, 9(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0107447

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