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Korean J Physiol Pharmacol. 2012 Feb;16(1):43-8. doi: 10.4196/kjpp.2012.16.1.43. Epub 2012 Feb 28.

Ghrelin protects spinal cord motoneurons against chronic glutamate excitotoxicity by inhibiting microglial activation.

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1
Department of Pharmacology and Medical Research Center for Bioreaction to ROS and Biomedical Science Institute, School of Medicine, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 130-701, Korea.

Abstract

Glutamate excitotoxicity is emerging as a contributor to degeneration of spinal cord motoneurons in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Recently, we have reported that ghrelin protects motoneurons against chronic glutamate excitotoxicity through the activation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 and phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase/Akt/glycogen synthase kinase-3β pathways. Previous studies suggest that activated microglia actively participate in the pathogenesis of ALS motoneuron degeneration. However, it is still unknown whether ghrelin exerts its protective effect on motoneurons via inhibition of microglial activation. In this study, we investigate organotypic spinal cord cultures (OSCCs) exposed to threohydroxyaspartate (THA), as a model of excitotoxic motoneuron degeneration, to determine if ghrelin prevents microglial activation. Exposure of OSCCs to THA for 3 weeks produced typical motoneuron death, and treatment of ghrelin significantly attenuated THA-induced motoneuron loss, as previously reported. Ghrelin prevented THA-induced microglial activation in the spinal cord and the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-1β. Our data indicate that ghrelin may act as a survival factor for motoneurons by functioning as a microglia-deactivating factor and suggest that ghrelin may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of ALS and other neurodegenerative disorders where inflammatory responses play a critical role.

KEYWORDS:

Excitotoxicity; Ghrelin; Microglial activation; Motoneuron; Neuroinflammation

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