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Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Nov;25(8):1716-24. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2011.07.227. Epub 2011 Jul 21.

Activation of cAMP-protein kinase A abrogates STAT5-mediated inhibition of glucocorticoid receptor signaling by interferon-alpha.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, 1365-B Clifton Rd., Suite 5100, Winship Cancer Institute, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


IFN-alpha has been found to inhibit glucocorticoid receptor (GR) function by activating janus kinase-signal transducer and activator of transcription (JAK-STAT) inflammatory signaling pathways. In contrast, through stimulation of protein kinase A (PKA), cAMP has been shown to enhance GR function and can inhibit inflammatory signaling. We therefore examined whether increased cAMP-PKA pathway activation could reverse IFN-alpha-induced inhibition of GR function and whether decreased cAMP-PKA activity might exacerbate IFN-alpha effects on the GR. Activation of cAMP by forskolin (10 μM) reversed the inhibitory effects of mIFN-alpha (1000 U/ml) on dexamethasone (DEX)-induced MMTV-luciferase activity in hippocampal HT22 cells. Forskolin treatment also blocked both IFN-alpha-induced activation of phosphorylated STAT5 (pSTAT5) and inhibitory protein-protein interactions between pSTAT5 and GR in the nucleus of HT22 cells treated with IFN-alpha and DEX. These effects of forskolin were reversed by co-administration of the PKA inhibitor, H89. Conversely, the combination of IFN-alpha and treatment with either H89 or siRNA directed against the alpha and beta catalytic subunit isoforms of PKA led to an additive inhibitory effect on DEX-induced GR activity in HT22 cells. Taken together, these findings suggest that inhibition of GR signaling by mIFN-alpha and STAT5 can be reversed by activation of cAMP-PKA pathways, whereas decreased PKA activity increases the inhibitory effect of IFN-alpha on GR function. Given decreased PKA activity found in patients with major depression, these data suggest that depressed patients may be vulnerable to cytokine effects on GR, and cAMP-PKA agonists may serve to reverse glucocorticoid resistance in patients with depression and increased inflammation.

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