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J Neurochem. 1999 Nov;73(5):2084-92.

Midkine inhibits caspase-dependent apoptosis via the activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase in cultured neurons.

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Department of Neurology, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, School of Medicine, Japan.


Midkine (MK) is a new member of the heparin-binding neurotrophic factor family. MK plays important roles in development and carcinogenesis and has several important biological effects, including promotion of neurite extension and neuronal survival. However, the mechanism by which MK exerts its neurotrophic actions on neurons has not been elucidated to date. We have established an apoptosis induction system by serum deprivation in primary neuronal cultures isolated from mouse cerebral cortices. Neuronal apoptosis induced by serum deprivation was accompanied by the activation of caspase-3. MK, when added into the culture medium, inhibited the induction of apoptosis and activation of caspase-3 in a dose-dependent manner. Extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and Akt were not activated by serum deprivation, whereas ERK and Akt were rapidly activated by addition of MK. In addition, the trophic actions of MK of suppressing apoptosis and suppressing the activation of caspase-3 were abolished by concomitant treatment with PD98059, a specific inhibitor of mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase, and with wort-mannin or LY294002, specific inhibitors of phosphatidyl-inositol 3-kinase (PI 3-kinase). These PI 3-kinase inhibitors also inhibited the activation of ERK in response to MK, demonstrating a link between ERK and the caspase-3 pathway that is modulated by the PI 3-kinase activation. These results indicate that the ERK cascade plays a central role in MK-mediated neuronal survival via inhibition of caspase-3 activation.

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