Mechanisms of manganese-induced rat pheochromocytoma (PC12) cell death and cell differentiation

Jerome A. Roth*, Craig Horbinski, Dennis Higgins, Pamela Lein, Michael D. Garrick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Mn is a neurotoxin that leads to a syndrome resembling Parkinson's disease after prolonged exposure to high concentrations. Our laboratory has been investigating the mechanism by which Mn induces neuronal cell death. To accomplish this, we have utilized rat pheochromocytoma (PC12) cells as a model since they possess much of the biochemical machinery associated with dopaminergic neurons. Mn, like nerve growth factor (NGF), can induce neuronal differentiation of PC12 cells but Mn-induced cell differentiation is dependent on its interaction with the cell surface integrin receptors and basement membrane proteins, vitronectin or fibronectin. Similar to NGF, Mn-induced neurite outgrowth is dependent on the phosphorylation and activation of the MAP kinases, ERK1 and 2 (p44/42). Unlike NGF, Mn is also cytotoxic having an IC50 value of ∼600 μM. Although many apoptotic signals are turned on by Mn, cell death is caused ultimately by disruption of mitochondrial function leading to loss of ATP. RT-PCR and immunoblotting studies suggest that some uptake of Mn into PC12 cells depends on the divalent metal transporter 1 (DMT1). DMT1 exists in two isoforms resulting from alternate splicing of a single gene product with one of the two mRNA species containing an iron response element (IRE) motif downstream from the stop codon. The presence of the IRE provides a binding site for the iron response proteins (IRP1 and 2); binding of either of these proteins could stabilize DMT1 mRNA and would increase expression of the +IRE form of the transporter. Iron and Mn compete for transport into PC12 cells via DMT1, so removal of iron from the culture media enhances Mn toxicity. The two isoforms of DMT1 (±IRE) are distributed in different subcellular compartments with the -IRE species selectively present in the nucleus of neuronal and neuronal-like cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-157
Number of pages11
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2002


  • Divalent metal transporter
  • Iron
  • MAP kinase
  • Manganese
  • PC12 cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Toxicology


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