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J Biol Chem. 2006 Jun 30;281(26):17870-81. Epub 2006 Apr 18.

Functional repression of cAMP response element in 6-hydroxydopamine-treated neuronal cells.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Division of Neuropathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Impaired survival signaling may represent a central mechanism in neurodegeneration. 6-Hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) is an oxidative neurotoxin used to injure catecholaminergic cells of the central and peripheral nervous systems. Although 6-OHDA elicits phosphorylation of several kinases, downstream transcriptional effects that influence neuronal cell death are less defined. The cAMP response element (CRE) is present in the promoter sequences of several important neuronal survival factors. Treatment of catecholaminergic neuronal cell lines (B65 and SH-SY5Y) with 6-OHDA resulted in repression of basal CRE transactivation. Message levels of CRE-driven genes such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor and the survival factor Bcl-2 were decreased in 6-OHDA-treated cells, but message levels of genes lacking CRE sequences were not affected. Repression of CRE could be reversed by delayed treatment with cAMP several hours after initiation of 6-OHDA injury. Furthermore, restoration of CRE-driven transcription was associated with significant neuroprotection. In contrast to observations in other model systems, the mechanism of CRE repression did not involve decreased phosphorylation of its binding protein CREB. Instead, total CREB and phospho-CREB (pCREB) were increased in the cytoplasm and decreased in the nucleus of 6-OHDA-treated cells. 6-OHDA also decreased nuclear pCREB in dopaminergic neurons of primary mouse midbrain cultures. Co-treatment with cAMP promoted/restored nuclear localization of pCREB in both immortalized and primary culture systems. Increased cytoplasmic pCREB was observed in degenerating human Parkinson/Lewy body disease substantia nigra neurons but not in age-matched controls. Notably, cytoplasmic accumulation of activated upstream CREB kinases has been observed previously in both 6-OHDA-treated cells and degenerating human neurons, supporting a potential role for impaired nuclear import of phosphorylated signaling proteins.

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