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Stem Cells Dev. 2019 Apr 22. doi: 10.1089/scd.2018.0138. [Epub ahead of print]

Sublethal Doses of Zinc Protect Neural Stem Cells Against Hypoxia Through Activation of the PI3K Pathway.

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1 Department of Neurology, Hanyang University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
2 Department of Translational Medicine, Hanyang University Graduate School of Biomedical Science & Engineering, Seoul, Korea.


Cerebral infarction is one of the major causes of severe morbidity and mortality, and thus, research has focused on developing treatment options for this condition. Zinc (Zn) is an essential element in the central nervous system and has several neuroprotective effects in the brain. In this study, we examined the neuroprotective effects of Zn on neural stem cells (NSCs) exposed to hypoxia. After treatment with several concentrations of Zn, the viability of NSCs under hypoxic conditions was measured by a 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) assay, Trypan blue staining, and a lactate dehydrogenase assay. To evaluate the effect of Zn on the proliferation of NSCs, bromodeoxyuridine/5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU) labeling and colony formation assays were performed. Apoptosis was also examined in NSCs exposed to hypoxia with and without Zn treatment. In addition, a western blot analysis was performed to evaluate the effect of Zn on intracellular signaling proteins. NSC viability and proliferation were decreased under hypoxic conditions, but treatment with sublethal doses of Zn restored viability and proliferation. Sublethal doses of Zn reduced apoptosis caused by hypoxia, increased the expression levels of proteins related to the phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase (PI3K) pathway, and decreased the expression levels of proteins associated with neuronal cell death. These findings confirm that in vivo, sublethal doses of Zn protect NSCs against hypoxia through the activation of the PI3K pathway. Thus, Zn could be employed as a therapeutic option to protect NSCs in ischemic stroke.


hypoxia; neural stem cells; phosphatidylinositol-3 kinase; sublethal dose; zinc


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