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.
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