Neurodegenerative diseases are accompanied by reduced activity of mitochondrial α-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase multienzyme
complex (KGDHC). We present a new cellular model to study molecular mechanisms of this association. By application of the
highly specific and efficient inhibitor of KGDHC, succinyl phosphonate (SP), to cultured neurons, we characterized the concentrationand
time-dependent consequences of decreased KGDHC activity for neuronal metabolism and viability. Metabolic profiling of SP-treated
neurons established accumulation of α-ketoglutarate and pyruvate as indicators of the KGDHC inhibition and ensuing impairment of pyruvate
oxidation in the tricarboxylic acid cycle. Concomitant increases in alanine, glutamate and λ-aminobutyrate indicated a scavenging
of the accumulated pyruvate and α-ketoglutarate by transamination and further decarboxylation of glutamate. Changes among other
amino acids were in accordance with their potential to react with α-ketoglutarate or products of its transamination and serve as fuel compensating
for the KGDHC block. Disturbances in neuronal amino acid pool were accompanied by changed polyamines, decreased total
protein and increased thymine, suggesting increased catabolism of amino acids to decrease translation and affect DNA turnover/repair.
The ensuing ATP salvage was observed as the paradoxical increase in neuronal ATP by mitochondrial inhibitor SP. Extensive exposure
of neurons to SP reduced viability, as revealed by both the ATP- and NAD(P)H-dependent viability tests. Thus, we provide experimental
evidence on the KGDHC impairment as a cause of neurodegeneration and decipher underlying molecular mechanisms, exposing the key
regulatory complex of the tricarboxylic acid cycle as a promising target for directed regulation of neuronal function and survival.
Keywords: Cellular models of neurodegeneration, metabolic engineering, metabolic profiling, mitochondria in neurodegenerative diseases,
α-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase, succinyl phosphonate, tricarboxylic acid cycle.
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