Metabotropic glutamate receptors are expressed throughout the nervous system, but their function as well as their ability to promote neuronal survival rests heavily upon the intracellular mechanisms governed by this family of Gproteins. In this regard, we examined one of the primary pathways that can oversee cell survival, namely protein kinase B (Akt1), and its functional integration with some of its substrates that may work in concert with group I metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluRI) activation to protect primary hippocampal neurons during oxidative stress. We demonstrate that neuroprotection against free radical injury through mGluRI activation with DHPG requires the activation of Akt1, since loss of Akt1 activity assessed through its GSK-3α/β substrate by pharmacological blockade of the phosphatidylinositide- 3-kinase pathway or the gene silencing of Akt1 expression prevents neuronal protection during mGluRI activation. Closely coupled to the robust neuroprotection by mGluRI activation are the inhibitory phosphorylation and prevention of caspase 3 cleavage of the Forkhead transcription factor FOXO3a, the down-regulation of Bim expression, and the protection of β-catenin by Akt1 against phosphorylation and degradation to promote its translocation from the cytoplasm to the nucleus and allow it to assist with a "pro-survival" cellular program. Further insight into the cellular mechanisms that determine neuronal protection by the metabotropic glutamate system will foster the successful therapeutic development of mGluRs for neurodegenerative disorders.
Keywords: Akt, β-catenin, Bim, forkhead, FOXO3a, glycogen synthase kinase-3β, ischemia, metabotropic glutamate receptor, nitric oxide, protein kinase B
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