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Neuroscience. 2011 May 5;181:206-15. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.02.047. Epub 2011 Mar 1.

Caffeine and uric acid mediate glutathione synthesis for neuroprotection.

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Department of Pharmacology, Teikyo University School of Medicine, 2-11-1 Kaga, Itabashi, Tokyo 173-8501, Japan.


Several lines of epidemiological studies have indicated that caffeine consumption and plasma uric acid (UA) level were negatively correlated with the incidence of some neurodegenerative diseases. We report here a novel mechanism by which these purine derivatives increase neuronal glutathione (GSH) synthesis. Intraperitoneal injection of caffeine or UA into male C57BL/6 mice significantly increased total GSH levels in the hippocampus. Neither SCH58261, an adenosine A2A receptor antagonist, nor rolipram, a phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitor, increased GSH levels. Pretreatment with allopurinol, a drug to inhibit UA production, did not change the GSH level in the caffeine-treated mice. Hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons treated with caffeine or UA were resistant to oxidant exposure in the slice culture experiments. In experiments with the SH-SY5Y cell line, cysteine uptake was sodium-dependent and pretreatment with caffeine or UA increased cysteine uptake significantly as compared with the control conditions. Slice culture experiments using the hippocampus also showed increased cysteine and GSH contents after the treatment with caffeine or UA. Immunohistochemical analysis showed increased GSH levels in the hippocampal excitatory amino acid carrier-1 (EAAC1)-positive neurons of mice treated with caffeine or UA. These findings suggest that purine derivatives caffeine and UA induce neuronal GSH synthesis by promoting cysteine uptake, leading to neuroprotection.

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