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Peroxisome Proliferator Activated Receptor-γ agonists protect oligodendrocyte progenitors against Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha-induced damage: Effects on mitochondrial functions and differentiation

C. De Nuccio, A. Bernardo, C. Cruciani, R. De Simone, S. Visentin, L. Minghetti

Experimental Neurology, Volume 271, September 2015, Pages 506-514


  • TNF-α and the mitochondrial toxin rotenone cause detrimental effects on mitochondrial functions and OL differentiation.

  • PPAR-γ agonists prevent the effects of TNF-α and rotenone.

  • The PPAR-γ agonists increase the expression of PGC-1α, UCP2, and cytochrome oxidase subunit COX1.

  • PPAR-γ agonists protect OL from TNF-α insult by inducing mitochondrial biogenesis and protecting from mitochondrial ROS.


The activation of the nuclear receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ (PPAR-γ) is known to exert anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects and PPAR-γagonists are considered potential therapeutic agents in brain diseases including those affecting myelin. In demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), inflammation is one of the causes of myelin and axonal damage. Oligodendrocyte (OL) differentiation is highly dependent on mitochondria, which are major targets of inflammatory insult. Here we show that PPAR-γ agonists protect OL progenitors against the maturational arrest induced by the inflammatory cytokine TNF-α by affecting mitochondrial functions. We demonstrate that the inhibition of OL differentiation by TNF-α is associated with i) increased mitochondrial superoxide production; ii) decreased mitochondrial membrane potential (mMP); and iii) decreased ADP-induced Ca2 +oscillations, which we previously showed to be dependent on efficient mitochondria. The TNF-α effects were comparable to those of the mitochondrial toxin rotenone, further suggesting that TNF-α damage is mediated by mitochondrial function impairment. PPAR-γ agonists protected OL progenitors against the inhibitory activities of both TNF-α and rotenone on mMP, mitochondrial ROS production, Ca2 + oscillations and OL differentiation. Finally, the PPAR-γ agonist pioglitazone increased the expression of PGC-1α (a mitochondrial biogenesis master regulator), UCP2 (a mitochondrial protein known to reduce ROS production), and cytochrome oxidase subunit COX1. These findings confirm the central role of mitochondria in OL differentiation and point to mitochondria as major targets of PPAR-γ agonist protection against TNF-α damage.

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About the Editors

  • Prof Timothy Vartanian

    Timothy Vartanian, Professor at the Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Department of Neurology, Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell...
  • Dr Claire S. Riley

    Claire S. Riley, MD is an assistant attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology in the Neurological Institute, Columbia University,...
  • Dr Rebecca Farber

    Rebecca Farber, MD is an attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at the Neurological Institute, Columbia University, in New...

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Note that EMD Serono, Inc., has no editorial control or influence over the content of this Resource Centre. The Resource Centre and all content therein are subject to an independent editorial review.

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