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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Sep 26, 1995; 92(20): 9077–9081.

Synaptic activation of NF-kappa B by glutamate in cerebellar granule neurons in vitro.


Neuronal proliferation, migration, and differentiation are regulated by the sequential expression of particular genes at specific stages of development. Such processes rely on differential gene expression modulated through second-messenger systems. Early postnatal mouse cerebellar granule cells migrate into the internal granular layer and acquire differentiated properties. The neurotransmitter glutamate has been shown to play an important role in this developmental process. We show here by immunohistochemistry that the RelA subunit of the transcription factor NF-kappa B is present in several areas of the mouse brain. Moreover, immunofluorescence microscopy and electrophoretic mobility-shift assay demonstrate that in cerebellar granule cell cultures derived from 3- to 7-day-old mice, glutamate specifically activates the transcription factor NF-kappa B, as shown by binding of nuclear extract proteins to a synthetic oligonucleotide reproducing the kappa B site of human immunodeficiency virus. The use of different antagonists of the glutamate recpetors indicates that the effect of glutamate occurs mainly via N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-receptor activation, possibly as a result of an increase in intracellular Ca2+. The synaptic specificity of the effect is strongly suggested by the observation that glutamate failed to activate NF-kappa B in astrocytes, while cytokines, such as interleukin 1 alpha and tumor necrosis factor alpha, did so. The effect of glutamate appears to be developmentally regulated. Indeed, NF-kappa B is found in an inducible form in the cytoplasm of neurons of 3- to 7-day-old mice but is constitutively activated in the nuclei of neurons derived from older pups (8-10 days postnatal). Overall, these observations suggest the existence of a new pathway of trans-synaptic regulation of gene expression.

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