N-acetylcysteine reverses the mitochondrial dysfunction induced by very long-chain fatty acids in murine oligodendrocyte model of adrenoleukodystrophy

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The accumulation of saturated very long-chain fatty acids (VLCFA, ≥C22:0) due to peroxi-somal impairment leads to oxidative stress and neurodegeneration in X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD). Among the neural supporting cells, myelin-producing oligodendrocytes are the most sensitive to the detrimental effect of VLCFA. Here, we characterized the mitochondrial dysfunction and cell death induced by VLFCA, and examined whether N-acetylcysteine (NAC), an antioxidant, prevents the cytotoxicity. We exposed murine oligodendrocytes (158 N) to hexacosanoic acid (C26:0, 1–100 µM) for 24 h and measured reactive oxygen species (ROS) and cell death. Low concentrations of C26:0 (≤25 µM) induced a mild effect on cell survival with no alterations in ROS or total glutathione (GSH) concentrations. However, analysis of the mitochondrial status of cells treated with C26:0 (25 µM) revealed depletion in mitochondrial GSH (mtGSH) and a decrease in the inner membrane potential. These results indicate that VLCFA disturbs the mitochondrial membrane potential causing ROS accumulation, oxidative stress, and cell death. We further tested whether NAC (500 µM) can prevent the mitochondria-specific effects of VLCFA in C26:0-treated oligodendrocytes. Our results demonstrate that NAC improves mtGSH levels and mitochondrial function in oligodendrocytes, indicating that it has potential use in the treatment of ALD and related disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1826
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: The authors acknowledge the University of Minnesota Office of Vice President of Research for funding support. The authors also thank S.M. Ghandour (INSERM, France) for the 158 N and 158 JP cell lines.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD)
  • Antioxidant
  • Glutathione (GSH)
  • Mitochondrial GSH (mtGSH)
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction
  • N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
  • Oligodendrocytes
  • Very long-chain fatty acids (VLCFA)


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