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Sci Rep. 2016 Dec 12;6:38452. doi: 10.1038/srep38452.

VRK3-mediated nuclear localization of HSP70 prevents glutamate excitotoxicity-induced apoptosis and Aβ accumulation via enhancement of ERK phosphatase VHR activity.

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Department of Life Sciences, Pohang University of Science and Technology, Pohang, Gyeongbuk, 37673, Republic of Korea.
Division of Integrative Biosciences and Biotechnology, Pohang University of Science and Technology, Pohang, Gyeongbuk, 37673, Republic of Korea.


Most of neurodegenerative disorders are associated with protein aggregation. Glutamate-induced excitotoxicity and persistent extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) activation are also implicated in neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we found that vaccinia-related kinase 3 (VRK3) facilitates nuclear localization of glutamate-induced heat shock protein 70 (HSP70). Nuclear HSP70 leads to enhancement of vaccinia H1-related phosphatase (VHR) activity via protein-protein interaction rather than its molecular chaperone activity, thereby suppressing excessive ERK activation. Moreover, glutamate-induced ERK activation stimulates the expression of HSP70 and VRK3 at the transcriptional level. Downregulation of either VRK3 or HSP70 rendered cells vulnerable to glutamate-induced apoptosis. Overexpression of HSP70 fused to a nuclear localization signal attenuated apoptosis more than HSP70 alone. The importance of nuclear localization of HSP70 in the negative regulation of glutamate-induced ERK activation was further confirmed in VRK3-deficient neurons. Importantly, we showed a positive correlation between levels of VRK3 and HSP70 in the progression of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases in humans, and neurons with HSP70 nuclear localization exhibited less Aβ accumulation in brains from patients with Alzheimer's disease. Therefore, HSP70 and VRK3 could potentially serve as diagnostic and therapeutic targets in neurodegenerative diseases.

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