Toxicity, recovery, and resilience in a 3D dopaminergic neuronal in vitro model exposed to rotenone

Georgina Harris, Melanie Eschment, Sebastian Perez Orozco, J. Michael McCaffery, Richard Maclennan, Daniel Severin, Marcel Leist, Andre Kleensang, David Pamies, Alexandra Maertens, Helena T. Hogberg, Dana Freeman, Alfredo Kirkwood, Thomas Hartung, Lena Smirnova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To date, most in vitro toxicity testing has focused on acute effects of compounds at high concentrations. This testing strategy does not reflect real-life exposures, which might contribute to long-term disease outcome. We used a 3D-human dopaminergic in vitro LUHMES cell line model to determine whether effects of short-term rotenone exposure (100 nM, 24 h) are permanent or reversible. A decrease in complex I activity, ATP, mitochondrial diameter, and neurite outgrowth were observed acutely. After compound removal, complex I activity was still inhibited; however, ATP levels were increased, cells were electrically active and aggregates restored neurite outgrowth integrity and mitochondrial morphology. We identified significant transcriptomic changes after 24 h which were not present 7 days after wash-out. Our results suggest that testing short-term exposures in vitro may capture many acute effects which cells can overcome, missing adaptive processes, and long-term mechanisms. In addition, to study cellular resilience, cells were re-exposed to rotenone after wash-out and recovery period. Pre-exposed cells maintained higher metabolic activity than controls and presented a different expression pattern in genes previously shown to be altered by rotenone. NEF2L2, ATF4, and EAAC1 were downregulated upon single hit on day 14, but unchanged in pre-exposed aggregates. DAT and CASP3 were only altered after re-exposure to rotenone, while TYMS and MLF1IP were downregulated in both single-exposed and pre-exposed aggregates. In summary, our study shows that a human cell-based 3D model can be used to assess cellular adaptation, resilience, and long-term mechanisms relevant to neurodegenerative research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2587-2606
Number of pages20
JournalArchives of Toxicology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Cellular defence
  • Gene response
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Pesticide
  • Recovery
  • Resilience
  • Rotenone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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