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Open Access Research article

Ageing of enteric neurons: oxidative stress, neurotrophic factors and antioxidant enzymes

Kris Korsak1, Nazanin F Dolatshad1, Ayona T Silva2 and M Jill Saffrey1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences, Biomedical Research Network, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK

2 The RoyalVeterinaryCollege, Hawkshead Lane, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, AL9 7TA, UK

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Chemistry Central Journal 2012, 6:80  doi:10.1186/1752-153X-6-80

Published: 2 August 2012

Abstract

Background

Ageing is associated with gastrointestinal dysfunction, which can have a major impact on quality of life of the elderly. A number of changes in the innervation of the gut during ageing have been reported, including neuronal loss and degenerative changes. Evidence indicates that reactive oxygen species (ROS) are elevated in ageing enteric neurons, but that neurotrophic factors may reduce generation of neuronal ROS. Two such factors, glial cell line derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) have also been found to protect enteric neurons against oxidative stress induced cell death of enteric ganglion cells in vitro. We have investigated the possible roles of neurotrophic factors further, by examining their expression in the gut during ageing, and by analysing their effects on antioxidant enzyme production in cultures of enteric ganglion cells.

Results

Analysis of the expression of GDNF and its receptors c-Ret and GFR α − 1 in rat gut by RT-PCR showed that expression continues throughout life and into ageing, in both ad libitum(AL) and calorically-restricted (CR) animals. Levels of expression of GDNF and GFR α − 1 were elevated in 24 month AL animals compared to 24 month CR animals, and to 24 CR and 6 month control animals respectively. The related factor Neurturin and its receptor GFR α − 2 were also expressed throughout life, the levels of the GFR – α-2(b) isoform were reduced in 24 m AL animals. Immunolabelling showed that c-Ret and GFR α − 1 proteins were expressed by myenteric neurons in ageing animals. GDNF, but not NT-3, was found to increase expression of Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase and catalase by cultured enteric ganglion cells.

Conclusions

The neurotrophic factors GDNF and neurturin and their receptors continue to be expressed in the ageing gut. Changes in the levels of expression of GDNF , GFR α-1 and GFR α-2(b) isoform occurred in 24 m AL animals. GDNF, but not NT-3, increased the levels of antioxidant enzymes in cultured enteric ganglion cells, indicating a possible mechanism for the reported protective effect of GDNF against menadione-induced neuronal apoptosis in the ageing gut. Together these data suggest that GDNF family members may play a protective role in the gut throughout life, and support the suggestion that dysregulation of neurotrophic factor support could contribute to neuronal ageing in the gut.

Keywords:
Myenteric plexus; Ileum; Intestine; Rat; Caloric restriction; NT-3; GDNF; Superoxide dismutase; Catalase