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Mol Neurobiol. 2015;51(3):1504-19. doi: 10.1007/s12035-014-8827-1. Epub 2014 Aug 2.

Agmatine induces Nrf2 and protects against corticosterone effects in hippocampal neuronal cell line.

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Instituto Teofilo Hernando, Departamento de Farmacología y Terapéutica, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 4-28029, Madrid, Spain,


Hyperactivation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is a common finding in major depression; this may lead to increased levels of cortisol, which are known to cause oxidative stress imbalance and apoptotic neuronal cell death, particularly in the hippocampus, a key region implicated in mood regulation. Agmatine, an endogenous metabolite of L-arginine, has been proposed for the treatment of major depression. Corticosterone induced apoptotic cell death and increased ROS production in cultured hippocampal neuronal cells, effects that were abolished in a concentration- and time-dependent manner by agmatine. Interestingly, the combination of sub-effective concentrations of agmatine with fluoxetine or imipramine afforded synergic protection. The neuroprotective effect of agmatine was abolished by yohimbine (α2-adrenoceptor antagonist), ketanserin (5-HT2A receptor antagonist), LY294002 (PI3K inhibitor), PD98059 (MEK1/2 inhibitor), SnPP (HO-1 inhibitor), and cycloheximide (protein synthesis inhibitor). Agmatine increased Akt and ERK phosphorylation and induced the transcription factor Nrf2 and the proteins HO-1 and GCLc; induction of these proteins was prevented by yohimbine, ketanserin, LY294002, and PD98059. In conclusion, agmatine affords neuroprotection against corticosterone effects by a mechanism that implicates Nrf2 induction via α2-adrenergic and 5-HT2A receptors, Akt and ERK pathways, and HO-1 and GCLc expression.

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