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Neuroscience. 1998 Oct;86(3):701-7.

Peptide inhibitors of caspase-3-like proteases attenuate 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinum-induced toxicity of cultured fetal rat mesencephalic dopamine neurons.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis 46202, USA.


Multiple aspartate-specific cysteine proteases have been identified and specific members of this family have been implicated in the apoptotic death of many mammalian cell types. Caspase-3-like proteases seem to play a pivotal role in neuronal apoptosis since mice with germline inactivation of the caspase-3 gene manifest profound alterations in neurogenesis. Moreover, inhibitors of caspase-3-related proteases have been shown to inhibit neuronal apoptosis. Here we extend recent work from our laboratory on the mechanisms mediating the neurotoxic actions of 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium using ventral mesencephalon cultures containing dopamine neurons. We demonstrate that low concentrations of 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium induce apoptosis in dopamine neurons by morphological and biochemical criteria. Moreover, pretreatment of ventral mesencephalon cultures with the tetrapeptide inhibitors of the caspase-3-like proteases zVAD-FMK or Ac-DEVD-CHO specifically inhibit death of dopamine neurons induced by low concentrations of 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium, whereas the caspase-1-like inhibitor Ac-YVAD-CHO was without effect. Our data indicate that exposure of cultured ventral mesencephalon dopamine neurons to low concentrations of 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium results in apoptotic death and that caspase-3-like proteases may mediate the neurotoxic apoptotic actions of 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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