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J Biol Chem. 2011 Jan 28;286(4):2785-94. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.158220. Epub 2010 Nov 22.

Neuroprotective drug riluzole amplifies the heat shock factor 1 (HSF1)- and glutamate transporter 1 (GLT1)-dependent cytoprotective mechanisms for neuronal survival.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Division of Life Sciences, Rutgers State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854, USA.


Heat shock factor 1 (HSF1) mediates the cellular response to stress to increase the production of heat shock protein (HSP) chaperones for proper protein folding, trafficking, and degradation; failure of this homeostatic mechanism likely contributes to neurodegeneration. We show that the neuroprotective drug riluzole increased the amount of HSF1 in NG108-15 neuroprogenitor cells by slowing the specific turnover of HSF1 and supporting a more robust and sustained activation of HSF1. Using Hsp70-luciferase as a functional readout of the activity of HSF1, we show that riluzole amplified the heat shock induction of the reporter gene with an optimal increase at 1 μM. Immunocytochemical staining and Western blot quantitation of HSP70 in NG108-15 neuroprogenitor cells and embryonic spinal cord neurons provided corroborative evidence that riluzole amplified the HSF1-dependent regulation of HSP70 expression. Parallel studies on the GLT1 glutamate transporter showed that riluzole increased GLT1-reporter and GLT1 protein expression and that the increase was enhanced by heat shock and coincident with the increased expression of HSP70 and HSP90. This result is consistent with the anti-glutamatergic profile of riluzole and the presence of multiple heat shock elements on the GLT1 gene promoter, suggesting that riluzole may modulate GLT1 expression through HSF1. The increased HSP chaperones and GLT1 transporter blunted glutamate-induced and N-methyl D-aspartate receptor-mediated excitotoxic death. In summary, we show that riluzole increased the amount and activity of HSF1 to boost the expression of HSPs and GLT1 for neuroprotection under stress.

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