Astrocytes do not forfeit their neuroprotective roles after surviving intense oxidative stress



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience






Astrocyte, Glia, Oxidative, Paraquat, Parkinson’s disease, Preconditioning, stress response


In order to fulfill their evolutionary role as support cells, astrocytes have to tolerate intense oxidative stress under conditions of brain injury and disease. It is well known that astrocytes exposed to mild oxidative stress are preconditioned against subsequent stress exposure in dual hit models. However, it is unclear whether severe oxidative stress leads to stress tolerance, stress exacerbation, or no change in stress resistance in astrocytes. Furthermore, it is not known whether reactive astrocytes surviving intense oxidative stress can still support nearby neurons. The data in this Brief Report suggest that primary cortical astrocytes surviving high concentrations of the oxidative toxicant paraquat are completely resistant against subsequent oxidative challenges of the same intensity. Inhibitors of multiple endogenous defenses (e.g., glutathione, heme oxygenase 1, ERK1/2, Akt) failed to abolish or even reduce their stress resistance. Stress-reactive cortical astrocytes surviving intense oxidative stress still managed to protect primary cortical neurons against subsequent oxidative injuries in neuron/astrocyte co-cultures, even at concentrations of paraquat that otherwise led to more than 80% neuron loss. Although our previous work demonstrated a lack of stress tolerance in primary neurons exposed to dual paraquat hits, here we show that intensely stressed primary neurons can resist a second hit of hydrogen peroxide. These collective findings suggest that stress-reactive astroglia are not necessarily neurotoxic, and that severe oxidative stress does not invariably lead to stress exacerbation in either glia or neurons. Therefore, interference with the natural functions of stress-reactive astrocytes might have the unintended consequence of accelerating neurodegeneration.

Open Access