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PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e32268. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032268. Epub 2012 Feb 27.

Hemokinin-1 gene expression is upregulated in microglia activated by lipopolysaccharide through NF-κB and p38 MAPK signaling pathways.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology, Nippon Medical School, Tokyo, Japan.


The mammalian tachykinins, substance P (SP) and hemokinin-1 (HK-1), are widely distributed throughout the nervous system and/or peripheral organs, and function as neurotransmitters or chemical modulators by activating their cognate receptor NK(1). The TAC1 gene encoding SP is highly expressed in the nervous system, while the TAC4 gene encoding HK-1 is uniformly expressed throughout the body, including a variety of peripheral immune cells. Since TAC4 mRNA is also expressed in microglia, the resident immune cells in the central nervous system, HK-1 may be involved in the inflammatory processes mediated by these cells. In the present study, we found that TAC4, rather than TAC1, was the predominant tachykinin gene expressed in primary cultured microglia. TAC4 mRNA expression was upregulated in the microglia upon their activation by lipopolysaccharide, a well-characterized Toll-like receptor 4 agonist, while TAC1 mRNA expression was downregulated. Furthermore, both nuclear factor-κB and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase intracellular signaling pathways were required for the upregulation of TAC4 mRNA expression, but not for the downregulation of TAC1 mRNA expression. These findings suggest that HK-1, rather than SP, plays dominant roles in the pathological conditions associated with microglial activation, such as neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory disorders.

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