Colistin-induced apoptosis of neuroblastoma-2a cells involves the generation of reactive oxygen species, mitochondrial dysfunction, and autophagy

Chongshan Dai, Shusheng Tang, Tony Velkov, Xilong Xiao

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42 Citations (Scopus)


Neurotoxicity remains a poorly characterized adverse effect associated with colistin therapy. The aim of the present study was to investigate the mechanism of colistin-induced neurotoxicity using the mouse neuroblastoma2a (N2a) cell line. Colistin treatment (0–200 μM) of N2a neuronal cells induced apoptotic cell death in a dose-dependent manner. Colistin-induced neurotoxicity was associated with a significant increase of reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels, with a concomitant decrease in the activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and the glutathione (GSH) levels. Mitochondrial dysfunction was evident from the dissipation of membrane potential and the increase of Bax/Bcl-2, followed by the release of cytochrome c (CytC). Caspase-3/7, -8, and -9 activations were also detected. Colistin-induced neurotoxicity significantly increased the gene expression of p53 (1.6-fold), Bax (3.3-fold), and caspase-8 (2.2-fold) (all p < 0.01). The formation of autophagic vacuoles was evident with the significant increases (all p < 0.05 or 0.01) of both of Beclin 1 and LC3B following colistin treatment (50–200 μM). Furthermore, inhibition of autophagy by pretreatment with chloroquine diphosphate (CQ) enhanced colistin-induced apoptosis via caspase activation, which could be attenuated by co-treatment with the pan-caspase inhibitor Z-VAD-FMK. In summary, our study reveals that colistin-induced neuronal cell death involves ROS-mediated oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction, followed by caspase-dependent apoptosis and autophagy. A knowledge base of the neuronal signaling pathways involved in colistin-induced neurotoxicity will greatly facilitate the discovery of neuroprotective agents for use in combination with colistin to prevent this undesirable side effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4685-4700
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


  • Apoptosis
  • Autophagy
  • Colistin
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Oxidative stress

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