Either the absence or dysfunction of a number of critical pathways, such as those that involve the nuclear retinoblastoma protein (Rb) and the transcription factor E2F1, may account for the aberrant induction of the cell cycle in post-mitotic neurons that can be responsible for oxidative stress-induced apoptotic cellular destruction. Yet, it is unclear whether early programs of apoptotic injury that involve membrane phosphatidylserine (PS) exposure and calreticulin expression as well as later phases of apoptotic injury with nuclear DNA injury require the critical modulation of Rb and E2F1. We demonstrate that both the post-translational of phosphorylation of Rb to prevent E2F1 transcription as well as the protein integrity of Rb are closely aligned with the modulation of cell cycle induction in post mitotic neurons during oxidative stress. More importantly, we illustrate that both the initial onset of apoptosis with either membrane PS exposure or calreticulin analysis as well as the more terminal phases of apoptosis that involve nuclear DNA degradation proceed concurrently in the same neuronal cells with cell cycle induction. Progression of attempted cell cycle induction is closely associated with the phosphorylation of Rb, its inability to bind to E2F1, and the degradation of the Rb protein. Inhibition of Rb phosphorylation using cyclin dependent kinase inhibitors maintains the integrity of the E2F1/Rb complex and is neuroprotective during free radical exposure. Furthermore, maintenance of the integrity of the Rb protein is specifically dependent upon caspase 3-like activity, since caspase 3 can cleave Rb during free radical activity and this degradation of Rb can be blocked during the inhibition of caspase 3 activity. Our studies not only highlight the critical role of attempted cell cycle induction during oxidative stress-induced neuronal apoptotic injury, but also bring to light the significant impact of the Rb and E2F1 pathways upon early apoptotic programs that can directly influence both intrinsic cell survival as well as extrinsic inflammatory cell activation.
Keywords: Apoptosis, bromodeoxyuridine, calreticulin, nitric oxide, E2F1, oxidative stress, phosphatidylserine, proliferating cell nuclear antigen, retinoblastoma protein
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