The aims of this study were to characterize the expression of paraoxonase 2 (PON2) in mouse brain and to assess its antioxidant properties. PON2 levels were highest in the lung, intestine, heart and liver, and lower in the brain; in all tissues, PON2 expression was higher in female than in male mice. PON2 knockout [PON2(-/-)] mice did not express any PON2, as expected. In the brain, the highest levels of PON2 were found in the substantia nigra, the nucleus accumbens and the striatum, with lower levels in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus, cerebellum and brainstem. A similar regional distribution of PON2 activity (measured by dihydrocoumarin hydrolysis) was also found. PON3 was not detected in any brain area, while PON1 was expressed at very low levels, and did not show any regional difference. PON2 levels were higher in astrocytes than in neurons isolated from all brain regions, and were highest in cells from the striatum. PON2 activity and mRNA levels followed a similar pattern. Brain PON2 levels were highest around birth, and gradually declined. Subcellular distribution experiments indicated that PON2 is primarily expressed in microsomes and in mitochondria. The toxicity in neurons and astrocytes of agents known to cause oxidative stress (DMNQ and H2O2) was higher in cells from PON2(-/-) mice than in the same cells from wild-type mice, despite similar glutathione levels. These results indicate that PON2 is expressed in the brain, and that higher levels are found in dopaminergic regions such as the striatum, suggesting that this enzyme may provide protection against oxidative stress-mediated neurotoxicity.
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