Mitigation of cocaine-mediated mitochondrial damage, defective mitophagy and microglial activation by superoxide dismutase mimetics

Annadurai Thangaraj, Palsamy Periyasamy, Ming Lei Guo, Ernest T. Chivero, Shannon Callen, Shilpa Buch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Although cocaine exposure has been shown to potentiate neuroinflammation by upregulating glial activation in the brain, the role of mitophagy in this process remains an enigma. In the present study, we sought to examine the role of impaired mitophagy in cocaine-mediated activation of microglia and to determine the ameliorative potential of superoxide dismutase mimetics in this context. Our findings demonstrated that exposure of mouse primary microglial cells (mPMs) to cocaine resulted in decreased mitochondrial membrane potential, that was accompanied by increased expression of mitophagy markers, PINK1 and PRKN. Exposure of microglia to cocaine also resulted in increased expression of DNM1L and OPTN with a concomitant decrease in the rate of mitochondrial oxygen consumption as well as impaired mitochondrial functioning. Additionally, in the presence of cocaine, microglia also exhibited upregulated expression of autophagosome markers, BECN1, MAP1LC3B-II, and SQSTM1. Taken together, these findings suggested diminished mitophagy flux and accumulation of mitophagosomes in the presence of cocaine. These findings were further confirmed by imaging techniques such as transmission electron microscopy and confocal microscopy. Cocaine-mediated activation of microglia was further monitored by assessing the expression of the microglial marker (ITGAM) and the inflammatory cytokine (Tnf, Il1b, and Il6) mRNAs. Pharmacological, as well as gene-silencing approaches aimed at blocking both the autophagy/mitophagy and SIGMAR1 expression, underscored the role of impaired mitophagy in cocaine-mediated activation of microglia. Furthermore, superoxide dismutase mimetics such as TEMPOL and MitoTEMPO were shown to alleviate cocaine-mediated impaired mitophagy as well as microglial activation. Abbreviations: 3-MA: 3-methyladenine; Δψm: mitochondrial membrane potential; ACTB: actin, beta; AIF1: allograft inflammatory factor 1; ATP: adenosine triphosphate; BAF: bafilomycin A1; BECN1: beclin 1, autophagy related; CNS: central nervous system; DNM1L: dynamin 1 like; DMEM: Dulbecco modified Eagle medium; DAPI: 4,6-Diamidino-2-phenylindole; DRD2: dopamine receptor D2; ECAR: extracellular acidification rate; FBS: fetal bovine serum; FCCP: Trifluoromethoxy carbonylcyanide phenylhydrazone; GAPDH: glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase; IL1B: interleukin 1, beta; IL6: interleukin 6; ITGAM: integrin subunit alpha M; MAP1LC3B: microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 beta; mPMs: mouse primary microglial cells; MRC: maximal respiratory capacity; NFKB: nuclear factor kappa B; NLRP3: NLR family pyrin domain containing 3; NTRK2: neurotrophic receptor tyrosine kinase 2; OCR: oxygen consumption rate; OPTN: optineurin; PBS: phosphate buffered saline; PINK1: PTEN induced putative kinase 1; PRKN: parkin RBR E3 ubiquitin protein ligase; ROS: reactive oxygen species; siRNA: small interfering RNA; SQSTM1: sequestosome 1; TNF: tumor necrosis factor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-312
Number of pages24
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Cocaine
  • MitoTEMPO
  • microglial activation
  • mitochondria
  • mitophagy
  • neuroinflammation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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