Chronic glucocorticoid exposure activates BK-NLRP1 signal involving in hippocampal neuron damage

Biqiong Zhang, Yaodong Zhang, Wenning Wu, Tanzhen Xu, Yanyan Yin, Junyan Zhang, Dake Huang, Weizu Li
Journal of Neuroinflammation 2017 July 21, 14 (1): 139

BACKGROUND: Neuroinflammation mediated by NLRP1 (nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain (NOD)-like receptor protein 1) inflammasome plays an important role in many neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease (PD) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Our previous studies showed that chronic glucocorticoid (GC) exposure increased brain inflammation via NLRP1 inflammasome and induce neurodegeneration. However, little is known about the mechanism of chronic GC exposure on NLRP1 inflammasome activation in hippocampal neurons.

METHODS: Hippocampal neurons damage was assessed by LDH kit and Hoechst 33258 staining. The expression of microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2), inflammasome complex protein (NLRP1, ASC and caspase-1), inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β), and large-conductance Ca2+ and voltage-activated K+ channel (BK channels) protein was detected by Western blot. The inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β and IL-18) were examined by ELISA kit. The mRNA levels of NLRP1, IL-1β, and BK were detected by real-time PCR. BK channel currents were recorded by whole-cell patch-clamp technology. Measurement of [K+ ]i was performed by ion-selective electrode (ISE) technology.

RESULTS: Chronic dexamethasone (DEX) treatment significantly increased LDH release and neuronal apoptosis and decreased expression of MAP2. The mechanistic studies revealed that chronic DEX exposure significantly increased the expression of NLRP1, ASC, caspase-1, IL-1β, L-18, and BK protein and NLRP1, IL-1β and BK mRNA levels in hippocampal neurons. Further studies showed that DEX exposure results in the increase of BK channel currents, with the subsequent K+ efflux and a low concentration of intracellular K+ , which involved in activation of NLRP1 inflammasome. Moreover, these effects of chronic DEX exposure could be blocked by specific BK channel inhibitor iberiotoxin (IbTx).

CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that chronic GC exposure may increase neuroinflammation via activation of BK-NLRP1 signal pathway and promote hippocampal neurons damage, which may be involved in the development and progression of AD.

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