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J Neurochem. 2011 Jun;117(5):879-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2011.07256.x. Epub 2011 Apr 19.

Sigma-1 receptor stimulation by dehydroepiandrosterone ameliorates cognitive impairment through activation of CaM kinase II, protein kinase C and extracellular signal-regulated kinase in olfactory bulbectomized mice.

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Department of Pharmacology, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tohoku University, 6-3 Aramaki-Aoba, Sendai, Japan.


Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is one of the most abundant neurosteroids synthesized de novo in the CNS. We here found that sigma-1 receptor stimulation by DHEA improves cognitive function through phosphorylation of synaptic proteins in olfactory bulbectomized (OBX) mouse hippocampus. We have previously reported that calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII), protein kinase C (PKC) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) were impaired in OBX mouse hippocampus. OBX mice were administered once a day for 7-8 days with DHEA (30 or 60 mg/kg p.o.) 10 days after operation. The spatial, cognitive and conditioned fear memories in OBX mice were significantly improved as assessed by Y-maze, novel object recognition and passive avoidance task, respectively. DHEA also improved impaired hippocampal long-term potentiation in OBX mice. Notably, DHEA treatment restored PKCα (Ser-657) autophosphorylation and NR1 (Ser-896) and myristoylated alanine-rich protein kinase C substrate (Ser-152/156) phosphorylation to the control levels in the hippocampal CA1 region. Likewise, DHEA treatment improved CaMKIIα (Thr-286) autophosphorylation and GluR1 (Ser-831) phosphorylation to the control levels in the CA1 region. Furthermore, DHEA treatment improved ERK and cAMP-responsive element-binding protein (Ser-133) phosphorylation to the control levels. Finally, NE-100, sigma-1 receptor antagonist, significantly inhibited the DHEA-induced improvement of memory-related behaviors and CaMKII, PKC and ERK phosphorylation in CA1 region. Taken together, sigma-1 receptor stimulation by DHEA ameliorates OBX-induced impairment in memory-related behaviors and long-term potentiation in the hippocampal CA1 region through activation of CaMKII, PKC and ERK.

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