Unconjugated bilirubin differentially affects the redox status of neuronal and astroglial cells

Maria A. Brito, Alexandra I. Rosa, Ana S. Falcão, Adelaide Fernandes, Rui F.M. Silva, D. Allan Butterfield, Dora Brites

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


We investigated whether nerve cell damage by unconjugated bilirubin (UCB) is mediated by oxidative stress and ascertained the neuronal and astroglial susceptibility to injury. Several oxidative stress biomarkers and cell death were determined following incubation of neurons and astrocytes isolated from rat cortical cerebrum with UCB (0.01-1.0 μM). We show that UCB induces a dose-dependent increase in neuronal death in parallel with the oxidation of cell components and a decrease in the intracellular glutathione content. Comparison of the results obtained in both cell types demonstrates that neurons are more vulnerable than astrocytes to oxidative injury by UCB, for which accounts the lower glutathione stores in neuronal cells. Moreover, neuronal oxidative injury is prevented by supplementation with N-acetylcysteine, a glutathione precursor, whereas astroglial sensitivity to UCB is enhanced by inhibition of glutathione synthesis, using buthionine sulfoximine. Collectively, we demonstrate that oxidative stress is involved in UCB neurotoxicity and depict a new therapeutic approach for UCB-induced oxidative damage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-40
Number of pages11
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT-POCI/SAU-MMO/55955/2004), Lisbon, Portugal, and FEDER.


  • Astrocytes
  • Cell death
  • Cell-type vulnerability
  • Glutathione
  • Lipid peroxidation
  • Neurons
  • Oxidative stress
  • Protein oxidation
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Unconjugated bilirubin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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