Rotenone-induced caspase 9/3-independent and -dependent cell death in undifferentiated and differentiated human neural stem cells

Jiang Li, Maria L. Spletter, Delinda A. Johnson, Lynda S. Wright, Clive N. Svendsen, Jeffrey A. Johnson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


We used human neural stem cells (hNSCs) and their differentiated cultures as a model system to evaluate the mechanism(s) involved in rotenone (RO)- and camptothecin (CA)-induced cytotoxicity. Results from ultrastructural damage and terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) staining indicated that RO-induced cytotoxicity resembled CA-induced apoptosis more than H2O2-induced necrosis. However, unlike CA-induced, caspase 9/3-dependent apoptosis, there was no increased activity in caspase 9, caspase 3 or poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) cleavage in RO-induced cytotoxicity, in spite of time-dependent release of cytochrome c and apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) following mitochondrial membrane depolarization and a significant increase in reactive oxygen species generation. Equal doses of RO and CA used in hNSCs induced caspase 9/3-dependent apoptosis in differentiated cultures. Time-dependent ATP depletion occurred earlier and to a greater extent in RO-treated hNSCs than in CA-treated hNSCs, or differentiated cultures treated with RO or CA. In conclusion, these results represent a unique ultrastructural and molecular characterization of RO- and CA-induced cytotoxicity in hNSCs and their differentiated cultures. Intracellular ATP levels may play an important role in determining whether neural progenitors or their differentiated cells follow a caspase 9/3-dependent or -independent pathway in response to acute insults from neuronal toxicants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)462-476
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2005


  • ATP
  • Apoptosis
  • Camptothecin
  • Caspase 3
  • Human neural stem cell
  • Rotenone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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