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J Biol Chem. 2004 Aug 13;279(33):34948-56. Epub 2004 May 28.

Apolipoprotein E receptors mediate neurite outgrowth through activation of p44/42 mitogen-activated protein kinase in primary neurons.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


Several ligands of the endocytic low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein (LRP), such as apoE-containing lipoproteins and activated alpha2-macroglobulin (alpha2M*), promote neurite outgrowth, suggesting that LRP may have signaling functions. In this study, we found that the treatment of neurons with alpha2M* significantly increased the individual length (by 71%) and numbers (by 139%) of neurites of primary mouse cortical neurons. These effects were blocked by the LRP antagonist, the receptor-associated protein. We found similar neurite outgrowth with purified apoE3 and a tandem apoE peptide containing only the receptor-binding domain. To investigate the intracellular pathway of the LRP signaling involved in neurite outgrowth, we tested the effects of alpha2M* on the phosphorylation of the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2). We found that 1) phospho-MAP kinase levels were altered within 30 min after treatment with alpha2M*, 2) the MAP kinase inhibitor, PD98059, specifically blocked the alpha2M*-induced neurite outgrowth, 3) manipulating intracellular calcium by BayK or BAPTA altered the neurite outgrowth and associated changes in the phospho-MAP kinase levels, which were blunted by alpha2M*, 4) alpha2M* promoted the phosphorylation of the transcription factor CREB through MAP kinase, and 5) LRP-specific antibodies increased levels of phosphorylated MAP kinase and phosphorylated CREB. The effects of alpha2M*, apoE3, and apoE peptides increased LRP levels in the cortical neurons, whereas LRP receptor-associated protein reduced dendritic LRP expression. These results demonstrate that p44/42 MAP kinase plays an important role in LRP-mediated neurite outgrowth with activation involving the effects on calcium homeostasis and downstream effects involving the activation of gene transcription through CREB.

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