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J Biol Chem. 2011 Dec 2;286(48):41230-45. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.270470. Epub 2011 Oct 11.

Acidic fibroblast growth factor (FGF) potentiates glial-mediated neurotoxicity by activating FGFR2 IIIb protein.

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Kinsmen Laboratory of Neurological Research, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z3, Canada.


Previous studies indicate that astrocytes are the brain cells that express acidic fibroblast growth factor (aFGF) and that the expression is increased upon activation. However, there has been no study investigating the significance of this phenomenon. Here we report that aFGF treatment of IFNγ-stimulated human astrocytes, and LPS/IFNγ-stimulated human microglia, enhances their secretion of inflammatory cytokines and other materials toxic to human neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells. The mechanism of aFGF enhancement involves stimulation of the receptor FGFR2 IIIb. We show by RT-PCR that this receptor, but not other FGF receptors, is robustly expressed by astrocytes and microglia. We establish by Western blotting, and immunohistochemistry on postmortem human brain tissue that the FGFR2 IIIb protein is expressed by both of these glial cell types. We blocked the inflammatory stimulant action of aFGF by transfecting microglia and astrocytes with a small inhibitory RNA (siRNA) to FGFR2 IIIb as well as by removal of aFGF using an anti-aFGF antibody. Treatment with bFGF in combination with the stimulants was without effect, but together with aFGF, it partially counteracted the action of aFGF, indicating that it may be a weak antagonist of FGFR2 IIIb. The inflammatory effect was also attenuated by treatment with inhibitors of protein kinase C, Src tyrosine kinase, and MEK-1/2 indicating the involvement of these intracellular pathways. Our data suggest that inhibition of expression or release of aFGF could have therapeutic potential by inhibiting inflammation in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer disease where many neuroinflammatory molecules are prominently expressed.

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