Open Access Open Badges Research article

Changes in liver mitochondrial plasticity induced by brain tumor

Daniel Pouliquen12*, Christophe Olivier13, Emilie Debien12, Khaled Meflah12, François M Vallette12 and Jean Menanteau12

Author Affiliations

1 Inserm, U601, Equipe « Apoptose et progression tumorale », F-44000, Nantes, France

2 Université de Nantes, Faculté de Médecine, Département de recherche en cancérologie, IFR26, F-44000, Nantes, France

3 Université de Nantes, Faculté de Pharmacie, F-44000, Nantes, France

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:234  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-234

Published: 3 October 2006



Accumulating data suggest that liver is a major target organ of systemic effects observed in the presence of a cancer. In this study, we investigated the consequences of the presence of chemically induced brain tumors in rats on biophysical parameters accounting for the dynamics of water in liver mitochondria.


Tumors of the central nervous system were induced by intraveinous administration of ethylnitrosourea (ENU) to pregnant females on the 19th day of gestation. The mitochondrial crude fraction was isolated from the liver of each animal and the dynamic parameters of total water and its macromolecule-associated fraction (structured water, H2Ost) were calculated from Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) measurements.


The presence of a malignant brain tumor induced a loss of water structural order that implicated changes in the physical properties of the hydration shells of liver mitochondria macromolecules. This feature was linked to an increase in the membrane cholesterol content, a way to limit water penetration into the bilayer and then to reduce membrane permeability. As expected, these alterations in mitochondrial plasticity affected ionic exchanges and led to abnormal features of mitochondrial biogenesis and caspase activation.


This study enlightens the sensitivity of the structured water phase in the liver mitochondria machinery to external conditions such as tumor development at a distant site. The profound metabolic and functional changes led to abnormal features of ion transport, mitochondrial biogenesis and caspase activation.