Stroke and circulatory arrest cause interferences in blood flow to the brain that result in considerable tissue damage. The primary method to reduce or prevent neurologic damage to patients suffering from brain ischemia is prompt restoration of blood flow to the ischemic tissue. However, paradoxically, restoration of blood flow causes additional damage and exacerbates neurocognitive deficits among patients who suffer a brain ischemic event. Mitochondria play a critical role in reperfusion injury by producing excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS) thereby damaging cellular components, and initiating cell death. In this review, we summarize our current understanding of the mechanisms of mitochondrial ROS generation during reperfusion, and specifically, the role the mitochondrial membrane potential plays in the pathology of cerebral ischemia/reperfusion. Additionally, we propose a temporal model of ROS generation in which posttranslational modifications of key oxidative phosphorylation (OxPhos) proteins caused by ischemia induce a hyperactive state upon reintroduction of oxygen. Hyperactive OxPhos generates high mitochondrial membrane potentials, a condition known to generate excessive ROS. Such a state would lead to a burst of ROS upon reperfusion, thereby causing structural and functional damage to the mitochondria and inducing cell death signaling that eventually culminate in tissue damage. Finally, we propose that strategies aimed at modulating this maladaptive hyperpolarization of the mitochondrial membrane potential may be a novel therapeutic intervention and present specific studies demonstrating the cytoprotective effect of this treatment modality.
- Oxidative phosphorylation
- Reactive oxygen species