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J Cell Mol Med. 2013 Jun;17(6):723-33. doi: 10.1111/jcmm.12059. Epub 2013 Apr 11.

Akt-mediated anti-apoptotic effects of substance P in Anti-Fas-induced apoptosis of human tenocytes.

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Department of Integrative Medical Biology, Anatomy, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden.


Substance P (SP) and its receptor, the neurokinin-1 receptor (NK-1 R), are expressed by human tenocytes, and they are both up-regulated in cases of tendinosis, a condition associated with excessive apoptosis. It is known that SP can phosphorylate/activate the protein kinase Akt, which has anti-apoptotic effects. This mechanism has not been studied for tenocytes. The aims of this study were to investigate if Anti-Fas treatment is a good apoptosis model for human tenocytes in vitro, if SP protects from Anti-Fas-induced apoptosis, and by which mechanisms SP mediates an anti-apoptotic response. Anti-Fas treatment resulted in a time- and dose-dependent release of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), i.e. induction of cell death, and SP dose-dependently reduced the Anti-Fas-induced cell death through a NK-1 R specific pathway. The same trend was seen for the TUNEL assay, i.e. SP reduced Anti-Fas-induced apoptosis via NK-1 R. In addition, it was shown that SP reduces Anti-Fas-induced decrease in cell viability as shown with crystal violet assay. Protein analysis using Western blot confirmed that Anti-Fas induces cleavage/activation of caspase-3 and cleavage of PARP; both of which were inhibited by SP via NK-1 R. Finally, SP treatment resulted in phosphorylation/activation of Akt as shown with Western blot, and it was confirmed that the anti-apoptotic effect of SP was, at least partly, induced through the Akt-dependent pathway. In conclusion, we show that SP reduces Anti-Fas-induced apoptosis in human tenocytes and that this anti-apoptotic effect of SP is mediated through NK-1 R and Akt-specific pathways.

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