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PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e34047. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034047. Epub 2012 Mar 30.

Selective regulation of NR2B by protein phosphatase-1 for the control of the NMDA receptor in neuroprotection.

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Brain Research Institute, University of Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.


An imbalance between pro-survival and pro-death pathways in brain cells can lead to neuronal cell death and neurodegeneration. While such imbalance is known to be associated with alterations in glutamatergic and Ca(2+) signaling, the underlying mechanisms remain undefined. We identified the protein Ser/Thr phosphatase protein phosphatase-1 (PP1), an enzyme associated with glutamate receptors, as a key trigger of survival pathways that can prevent neuronal death and neurodegeneration in the adult hippocampus. We show that PP1α overexpression in hippocampal neurons limits NMDA receptor overactivation and Ca(2+) overload during an excitotoxic event, while PP1 inhibition favors Ca(2+) overload and cell death. The protective effect of PP1 is associated with a selective dephosphorylation on a residue phosphorylated by CaMKIIα on the NMDA receptor subunit NR2B, which promotes pro-survival pathways and associated transcriptional programs. These results reveal a novel contributor to the mechanisms of neuroprotection and underscore the importance of PP1-dependent dephosphorylation in these mechanisms. They provide a new target for the development of potential therapeutic treatment of neurodegeneration.

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