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J Neurochem. 2008 Aug;106(3):1248-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2008.05473.x. Epub 2008 Jun 2.

Insulin blocks cytochrome c release in the reperfused brain through PI3-K signaling and by promoting Bax/Bcl-XL binding.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA.


The critical event of the intrinsic pathway of apoptosis following transient global brain ischemia is the release of cytochrome c from the mitochondria. In vitro studies have shown that insulin can signal specifically via phosphatidylinositol-3-OH-kinase (PI3-K) and Akt to prevent cytochrome c release. Therefore, insulin may exert its neuroprotective effects during brain reperfusion by blocking cytochrome c release. We hypothesized that insulin acts through PI3-K, Akt, and Bcl-2 family proteins to inhibit cytochrome c release following transient global brain ischemia. We found that a single bolus of insulin given immediately upon reperfusion inhibited cytochrome c release for at least 24 h, and produced a fivefold improvement in neuronal survival at 14 days. Moreover, insulin's ability to inhibit cytochrome c release was completely dependent on PI3-K signaling and insulin induces phosphorylation of Akt through PI3-K. In untreated animals, there was an increase in mitochondrial Bax at 6 h of reperfusion, and Bax binding to Bcl-X(L) was disrupted at the mitochondria. Insulin prevented both these events in a PI3-K-dependent manner. In summary, insulin regulates cytochrome c release through PI3-K likely by activating Akt, promoting the binding between Bax and Bcl-X(L), and by preventing Bax translocation to the mitochondria.

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