Activated glia induce neuron death via MAP kinase signaling pathways involving JNK and p38

Zhong Xie, Carolyn J Smith, Linda J Van Eldik
Glia 2004 January 15, 45 (2): 170-9
Chronic glial activation in neurodegenerative diseases contributes to neuronal dysfunction and neuron loss through production of neuroinflammatory molecules. However, the molecular mechanisms, particularly the signal transduction pathways involved in glia-dependent neuron death, are poorly understood. As a first step to address this question, we used a neuron-glia co-culture system that allows diffusion of soluble molecules between glia and neurons to test the potential importance of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathways in the glia-induced neuron death. Activation of glia in co-culture by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced apoptotic-like neuron death. The MAPKs tested (p38, JNK, ERK1/2) were activated in both glia and neurons following LPS treatment, suggesting their involvement in both glial activation and neuronal response to diffusible, glia-derived neurotoxic molecules. Inhibitors of p38 and JNK partially blocked neuron death in the LPS-treated co-culture, whereas an ERK1/2 pathway inhibitor did not protect neurons. These results show that p38 and JNK MAPKs, but not ERK1/2 MAPK, are important signal transduction pathways contributing to glia-induced neuron death.

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