Protection of ATP-depleted cells by impermeant strychnine derivatives: Implications for glycine cytoprotection

Zheng Dong, Manjeri A. Venkatachalam, Joel M. Weinberg, Pothana Saikumar, Yogendra Patel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Glycine and structurally related amino acids with activities at chloride channel receptors in the central nervous system also have robust protective effects against cell injury by ATP depletion. The glycine receptor antagonist strychnine shares this protective activity. An essential step toward identification of the molecular targets for these compounds is to determine whether they protect cells through interactions with intracellular targets or with molecules on the outer surface of plasma membranes. Here we report cytoprotection by a cell-impermeant derivative of strychnine. A strychnine-fluorescein conjugate (SF) was synthesized, and impermeability of plasma membranes to this compound was verified by fluorescence confocal microscopy. In an injury model of Madin-Darby canine kidney cells, ATP depletion led to lactate dehydrogenase release. SF prevented lactate dehydrogenase leakage without ameliorating ATP depletion. This was accompanied by preservation of cellular ultrastructure and exclusion of vital dyes. SF protection was also shown for ATP-depleted rat hepatocytes. On the other hand, when a key structural motif in the active site of strychnine was chemically blocked, the SF lost its protective effect, establishing strychnine-related specificity for SF protection. Cytoprotective effects of the cell-impermeant strychnine derivative provide compelling evidence suggesting that molecular targets on the outer surface of plasma membranes may mediate cytoprotection by strychnine and glycine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1021-1028
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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