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Neuroscience. 2006 Sep 15;141(4):2019-27. Epub 2006 Jun 13.

Neuroprotective effects of agmatine against cell damage caused by glucocorticoids in cultured rat hippocampal neurons.

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Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, University of Mississippi Medical Center, 2500 North State Street, Jackson, MS 39216, USA.


In the present study the neuroprotective effects of agmatine against neuronal damage caused by glucocorticoids were examined in cultured rat hippocampal neurons. Spectrophotometric measurements of lactate dehydrogenase activities, beta-tubulin III immunocytochemical staining, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate (dUTP) nick-end-labeling assay (TUNEL) labeling and caspase-3 assays were carried out to detect cell damage or possible involved mechanisms. Our results show that dexamethasone and corticosterone produced a concentration-dependent increase of lactate dehydrogenase release in 12-day hippocampal cultures. Addition of 100 microM agmatine into media prevented the glucocorticoid-induced increase of lactate dehydrogenase release, an effect also shared with the specific N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist MK801 and glucocorticoid receptor antagonists mifepristone and spironolactone. Arcaine, an analog of agmatine with similar structure as agmatine, also blocked glucocorticoid-induced increase of lactate dehydrogenase release. Spermine and putrescine, the endogenous polyamine and metabolic products of agmatine without the guanidino moiety of agmatine, have no appreciable effect on glucocorticoid-induced injuries, indicating a structural relevance for this neuroprotection. Immunocytochemical staining with beta-tubulin III confirmed the substantial neuronal injuries caused by glucocorticoids and the neuroprotective effects of agmatine against these neuronal injuries. TUNEL labeling demonstrated that agmatine significantly reduced TUNEL-positive cell numbers induced by exposure of cultured neurons to dexamethasone. Moreover, exposure of hippocampal neurons to dexamethasone significantly increased caspase-3 activity, which was inhibited by co-treatment with agmatine. Taken together, these results demonstrate that agmatine can protect cultured hippocampal neurons from glucocorticoid-induced neurotoxicity, through a possible blockade of the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor channels or a potential anti-apoptotic property.

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