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J Neurochem. 1999 Aug;73(2):450-6.

Induction of an immediate early gene egr-1 by zinc through extracellular signal-regulated kinase activation in cortical culture: its role in zinc-induced neuronal death.

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National Creative Research Initiative Center for the Study of CNS Zinc and Department of Neurology, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.


Egr-1 is one of the immediate early transcription factors that are induced after brain insults. However, the mechanism and the role of Egr-1 induction are not yet determined. In the present study, using mouse cortical cultures, we examined the ionic mechanism of Egr-1 induction and its role in neuronal death. Although zinc, NMDA, or ionomycin induced comparable neuronal death in cortical culture, only zinc increased Egr-1 expression, which was attenuated by blocking zinc influx. It is intriguing that brief exposure to zinc induced sustained extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk) activation. PD098059, an inhibitor of the Erk 1/2 upstream kinase mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase 1 (MEK1), blocked Erk 1/2 activation, Egr-1 induction, and neuronal death by zinc. The present study has demonstrated that zinc, rather than calcium, induces lasting Egr-1 expression in cortical culture by activating Erk 1/2, which is part of a cascade that may play an active role in zinc neurotoxicity. We propose that translocation of endogenous zinc may be the key mechanism of Egr-1 induction and neuronal death in brain ischemia.

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