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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2012 Dec;343(3):596-607. doi: 10.1124/jpet.112.198341. Epub 2012 Aug 27.

Na+,K+-ATPase functionally interacts with the plasma membrane Na+,Ca2+ exchanger to prevent Ca2+ overload and neuronal apoptosis in excitotoxic stress.

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Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Russia.


Using a fluorescent viability assay, immunocytochemistry, patch-clamp recordings, and Ca(2+) imaging analysis, we report that ouabain, a specific ligand of the Na(+),K(+)-ATPase cardiac glycoside binding site, can prevent glutamate receptor agonist-induced apoptosis in cultured rat cortical neurons. In our model of excitotoxicity, a 240-min exposure to 30 μM N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) or kainate caused apoptosis in ∼50% of neurons. These effects were accompanied by a significant decrease in the number of neurons that were immunopositive for the antiapoptotic peptide Bcl-2. Apoptotic injury was completely prevented when the agonists were applied together with 0.1 or 1 nM ouabain, resulting in a greater survival of neurons, and the percentage of neurons expressing Bcl-2 remained similar to those obtained without agonist treatments. In addition, subnanomolar concentrations of ouabain prevented the increase of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic current's frequency and the intracellular Ca(2+) overload induced by excitotoxic insults. Loading neurons with 1,2-bis(2-aminophenoxy)ethane-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid or inhibition of the plasma membrane Na(+),Ca(2+)-exchanger by 2-(2-(4-(4-nitrobenzyloxy)phenyl)ethyl)isothiourea methanesulfonate (KB-R7943) eliminated ouabain's effects on NMDA- or kainite-evoked enhancement of spontaneous synaptic activity. Our data suggest that during excitotoxic insults ouabain accelerates Ca(2+) extrusion from neurons via the Na(+),Ca(2+) exchanger. Because intracellular Ca(2+) accumulation caused by the activation of glutamate receptors and boosted synaptic activity represents a key factor in triggering neuronal apoptosis, up-regulation of Ca(2+) extrusion abolishes its development. These antiapoptotic effects are independent of Na(+),K(+)-ATPase ion transport function and are initiated by concentrations of ouabain that are within the range of an endogenous analog, suggesting a novel functional role for Na(+),K(+)-ATPase in neuroprotection.

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