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Protective function of taurine in glutamate-induced apoptosis in cultured neurons



Previously, we showed that taurine protects neurons against glutamate-induced excitotoxicity by inhibiting the glutamate-induced increase of [Ca2+]i. In this study, we report that taurine prevents glutamate-induced chromosomal condensation, indicating that taurine inhibits glutamate-induced apoptosis. We found that Bcl-2 was down-regulated while Bax was up-regulated by glutamate treatment, and these changes were prevented in the presence of taurine. We have also shown that taurine inhibits glutamate-induced activation of calpain. Furthermore, calpastatin, a specific calpain inhibitor, also prevented glutamate-induced cell death. Here we propose the mechanisms underlying glutamate-induced apoptosis and taurine's inhibition of glutamate-induced apoptosis to be as follows: glutamate stimulation induces [Ca2+]i elevation, which in turn activates calpain; activation of calpain leads to a reduction of Bcl-2:Bax ratios; with decreased Bcl-2:Bax ratios Bax homodimers form, Bax homodimerization, and translocation to the mitochondria result in the release of cytochrome c; released cytochrome c in turn activates a downstream caspase cascade leading to apoptosis. The antiapoptotic function of taurine is due to its inhibition of glutamate-induced membrane depolarization. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.