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J Neurosci Res. 2012 Nov;90(11):2074-85. doi: 10.1002/jnr.23101. Epub 2012 Jul 16.

Possible neuroprotective property of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in association with predominant upregulation of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor in astrocytes.

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Division of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kanazawa University Graduate School of Natural Science and Technology, Kakuma-machi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan.


The underlying mechanisms are still unclear for the neuroprotective properties of nicotine to date, whereas we have shown functional expression of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) responsible for the influx of extracellular Ca(2+) in cultured rat cortical astrocytes. In this study, we investigated the possible involvement of astrocytic nAChRs in the neuroprotection by this agonist. Exposure to nicotine predominantly induced mRNA expression of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) among the different neurotrophic factors examined in cultured astrocytes, in a manner sensitive to nAChR antagonists, nifedipine, and aCa(2+) chelator. Nicotine significantly increased GDNF in a concentration-dependent manner in cultured astrocytes but not in neurons or neural progenitors even at the highest concentration used. In cultured astrocytes, a transient increase was seen in the expression of mRNA and corresponding protein for GDNF during sustained exposure to nicotine for 24 hr. Cytotoxicity mediated by oxidative, calcium, mitochondrial, or endoplasmic reticulum stress was invariably protected against in cortical neurons cultured with conditioned medium from astrocytes previously exposed to nicotine, and preincubation with the anti-GDNF antibody reduced the neuroprotection by conditioned medium from astrocytes exposed to nicotine. Intraperitoneal administration of nicotine transiently increased the number of cells immunoreactive for both GDNF and glial fibrillary acidic protein in rat cerebral cortex. These results suggest that astrocytic nAChRs play a role in the neuroprotection against different cytotoxins after predominant upregulation of GDNF expression through a mechanism relevant to the acceleration of extracellular Ca(2+) influx in rat brain in a particular situation.

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