Prothrombin kringle-2 induces death of mesencephalic dopaminergic neurons in vivo and in vitro via microglial activation

Sang Ryong Kim, Eun Sook Chung, Eugene Bok, Hyung Hwan Baik, Young Cheul Chung, So Yoon Won, Eunhye Joe, Tae Hyong Kim, Soung Soo Kim, Min Young Jin, Sang Ho Choi, Byung Kwan Jin
Journal of Neuroscience Research 2010 May 15, 88 (7): 1537-48
We have shown that prothrombin kringle-2 (pKr-2), a domain of human prothrombin distinct from thrombin could activate cultured rat brain microglia in vitro. However, little is known whether pKr-2-induced microglial activation could cause neurotoxicity on dopaminergic (DA) neurons in vivo. To address this question, pKr-2 was injected into the rat substantia nigra (SN). Tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) immunohistochemistry experiments demonstrate significant loss of DA neurons seven days after injection of pKr-2. In parallel, pKr-2-activated microglia were detected in the SN with OX-42 and OX-6 immunohistochemistry. Reverse transcription PCR and double-label immunohistochemistry revealed that activated microglia in vivo exhibit early and transient expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and several proinflammatory cytokines. The pKr-2-induced loss of SN DA neurons was partially inhibited by the NOS inhibitor N(G)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester hydrochloride, and the COX-2 inhibitor DuP-697. Extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2, c-Jun N-terminal kinase and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase were activated in the SN as early as 1 hr after pKr-2 injection, and localized within microglia. Inhibition of these kinases led to attenuation of mRNA expression of iNOS, COX-2 and several proinflammatory cytokines, and rescue of DA neurons in the SN. Intriguingly, following treatment with pKr-2 in vitro, neurotoxicity was detected exclusively in co-cultures of mesencephalic neurons and microglia, but not microglia-free neuron-enriched mesencephalic cultures, indicating that microglia are required for pKr-2 neurotoxicity. Our results strongly suggest that microglia activated by endogenous compound(s), such as pKr-2, are implicated in the DA neuronal cell death in the SN.

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