Propionic acid induces cytoskeletal alterations in cultured astrocytes from rat cerebral cortex

Lúcia Maria Vieira De Almeida, Cláudia Funchal, Carmem Gottfried, Moacir Wajner, Regina Pessoa-Pureur*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Severe neurological symptoms, cerebral edema, and atrophy are common features of the inherited metabolic disorder propionic acidemia. However, the pathomechanisms involved in the neuropathology of this disease are not well established. In this study, we investigate the effects of propionic acid (PA), a metabolite accumulating in this disorder, on cytoskeletal reorganization, on cell viability, and on the in vitro phosphorylation of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and vimentin in cultured astrocytes from cerebral cortex of neonatal rats. We observed that the astrocytes changed their usual polygonal morphology when exposed to 5 mM PA for 72 h, leading to the appearance of fusiform or process-bearing cells, without elicit cell death. We also noticed that after 72 h treatment with 5 mM PA cells showed retracted cytoplasm with bipolar processes containing packed GFAP filaments and disorganized actin stress fibers, as revealed by immunocytochemistry. In addition, the morphological alterations were accompanied by increased in vitro 32P incorporation into GFAP and vimentin recovered into the high-salt Triton-insoluble cytoskeletal fraction. In conclusion, our results indicate that PA lead to cytoskeletal reorganization and to increased in vitro phosphorylation of Triton-insoluble GFAP and vimentin. On the basis of our results we could suppose that Triton-insoluble GFAP and vimentin hyperphosphorylation could be implicated in the reorganization of cellular structure and these findings could be involved in the brain damage characteristic of propionic acidemia patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-62
Number of pages12
JournalMetabolic Brain Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2006


  • Actin
  • Cytoskeleton
  • GFAP
  • Phosphorylation
  • Propionic acid
  • Vimentin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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