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PLoS One. 2014 Apr 9;9(4):e94278. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094278. eCollection 2014.

Efficacy of lovastatin on learning and memory deficits caused by chronic intermittent hypoxia-hypercapnia: through regulation of NR2B-containing NMDA receptor-ERK pathway.

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The Center of Neurology and Rehabilitation, The Second Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University, Wenzhou, China.



Chronic intermittent hypoxia-hypercapnia (CIHH) exposure leads to learnning and memory deficits in rats. Overactivation of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors(NMDARs) can lead to the death of neurons through a process termed excitotoxicity, which is involved in CIHH-induced cognitive deficits. Excessively activated NR2B (GluN2B)-containing NMDARs was reported as the main cause of excitotoxicity. The ERK1/2 (extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2) signaling cascade acts as a key component in NMDARs-dependent neuronal plasticity and survival. Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII), synapse-associated protein 102 (SAP102) and Ras GTPase-activating protein (SynGAP) have been shown to be involved in the regulation of NMDAR-ERK signalling cascade. Recent studies revealed statins (the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor) have effect on the expression of NMDARs. The present study intends to explore the potential effect of lovastatin on CIHH-induced cognitive deficits and the NR2B-ERK signaling pathway.


Eighty male Sprague Dawley rats were randomly divided into five groups. Except for those in the control group, the rats were exposed to chronic intermittent hypoxia-hypercapnia (CIHH) (9 ∼ 11%O2, 5.5 ∼ 6.5%CO2) for 4 weeks. After lovastatin administration, the rats performed better in the Morris water maze test. Electron microscopy showed alleviated hippocampal neuronal synaptic damage. Further observation suggested that either lovastatin or ifenprodil (a selective NR2B antagonist) administration similarly downregulated NR2B subunit expression leading to a suppression of CaMKII/SAP102/SynGAP signaling cascade, which in turn enhanced the phosphorylation of ERK1/2. The phosphorylated ERK1/2 induced signaling cascade involving cAMP-response element-binding protein (CREB) phosphorylation and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) activation, which is responsible for neuroprotection.


These findings suggest that the ameliorative cognitive deficits caused by lovastatin are due to the downregulation of excessive NR2B expression accompanied by increased expression of ERK signaling cascade. The effect of NR2B in upregulating pERK1/2 maybe due, at least in part, to inactivation of CaMKII/SAP102/SynGAP signaling cascade.

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