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Neuropharmacology. 2003 Oct;45(5):623-36.

Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and related peptides confer neuroprotection via type 1 CRF receptors.

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Neurology and GI Centre of Excellence for Drug Discovery, GlaxoSmithKline Research and Development Limited, New Frontiers Science Park, Third Avenue, Harlow CM19 5AW, UK.


Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) receptors are members of the superfamily of G-protein coupled receptors that utilise adenylate cyclase and subsequent production of cAMP for signal transduction in many tissues. Activation of cAMP-dependent pathways, through elevation of intracellular cAMP levels is known to promote survival of a large variety of central and peripheral neuronal populations. Utilising cultured primary rat central nervous system neurons, we show that stimulation of endogenous cAMP signalling pathways by forskolin confers neuroprotection, whilst inhibition of this pathway triggers neuronal death. CRF and the related CRF family peptides urotensin I, urocortin, and sauvagine, which also induced cAMP production, prevented the apoptotic death of cerebellar granule neurons triggered by inhibition of phosphatidylinositol kinase-3 pathway activity with LY294002. These effects were negated by the highly selective CRF-R1 antagonist CP154,526. CRF even conferred neuroprotection when its application was delayed by up to 8 h following LY294002 addition. The CRF peptides also protected cortical and hippocampal neurons against death induced by beta-amyloid peptide (1-42), in a CRF-R1 dependent manner. In separate experiments, LY294002 reduced neuronal protein kinase B activity while increasing glycogen synthase kinase-3, whilst CRF (and related peptides) promoted phosphorylation of glycogen synthase kinase-3 without protein kinase B activation. Taken together, these results suggest that the neuroprotective activity of CRF may involve cAMP-dependent phosphorylation of glycogen synthase kinase-3.

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