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ABSTRACT: Intracellular calcium influx through NMDA receptors triggers a cascade of deleterious signaling events which lead to neuronal death in neurological conditions such as stroke. However, it is not clear as to the molecular mechanism underlying early damage response from axons and dendrites which are important in maintaining a network essential for the survival of neurons. Here, we examined changes of axons treated with glutamate and showed the appearance of betaIII-tubulin positive varicosities on axons before the appearance of neuronal death. Dizocilpine blocked the occurrence of varicosities on axons suggesting that these microstructures were mediated by NMDA receptor activities. Despite early increased expression of pCaMKII and pMAPK after just 10 min of glutamate treatment, only inhibitors to Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) and calpain prevented the occurrence of axonal varicosities. In contrast, inhibitors to Rho kinase, mitogen-activated protein kinase and phosphoinositide 3-kinase were not effective, nor were they able to rescue neurons from death, suggesting CaMKII and calpain are important in axon survival. Activated CaMKII directly phosphorylates collapsin response mediator protein (CRMP) 2 which is independent of calpain-mediated cleavage of CRMP2. Over-expression of CRMP2, but not the phosphorylation-resistant mutant CRMP2-T555A, increased axonal resistance to glutamate toxicity with reduced numbers of varicosities. The levels of both pCRMP2 and pCaMKII were also increased robustly within early time points in ischemic brains and which correlated with the appearance of axonal varicosities in the ischemic neurons. Collectively, these studies demonstrated an important role for CaMKII in modulating the integrity of axons through CRMP2 during excitotoxicity-induced neuronal death.
Journal of Neurochemistry 10/2009; 111(3):870-81. · 3.97 Impact Factor