Excessive levels of the neurotransmitter glutamate trigger excitotoxic processes in neurons that lead to cell death. N-Methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor over-activation is a key excitotoxic stimulus that leads to increases in intracellular calcium and activation of downstream signaling pathways, including the p44/42 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase pathway. In the present study, we have demonstrated that 1,4-diamino-2,3-dicyano-1,4-bis[2-aminophenylthio]butadiene (U0126), a potent and selective inhibitor of the p44/42 MAP kinase signaling pathway, prevents glutamate-induced death in neuronally differentiated P19 cells. In addition, we show that differentiated, but not undifferentiated, P19 cells expressed zeta1, epsilon1, and epsilon2 subunits of the NMDA receptor. Differentiated P19 cells exhibited specific NMDA receptor binding and intracellular calcium responses to glutamate that were blocked by the selective NMDA receptor antagonist [5R,10S]-[+]-5-methyl-10,11-dihydro-5H-dibenzo[a,d]cyclohepten-5,10-imine (MK-801), but not U0126. Glutamate treatment of differentiated P19 cells triggered a rapid and sustained induction in p42 MAP kinase phosphorylation that was blocked by U0126. Pretreatment of differentiated P19 cells with U0126, but not other classes of protein kinase inhibitors, protected against glutamate-induced cell death. Post-treatment with U0126, even as late as 6 hr after glutamate application, also protected against glutamate toxicity. These results suggest that the p44/42 MAP kinase pathway may be a critical downstream signaling pathway in glutamate receptor-activated toxicity.
- P44/42 MAP kinase
ASJC Scopus subject areas